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About the book
  • Published: 16 June 2020
  • ISBN: 9780753558287
  • Imprint: WH Allen
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 384
  • RRP: $26.00

The Pandemic Century

A History of Global Contagion




A timely and critically acclaimed 100-year history of pandemics, by medical historian and viral TED talk presenter – with a new chapter on COVID-19.

A Financial Times Best Book of the Year

The most timely and informative history book you will read this year, tracing a century of pandemics, with a new chapter on COVID-19.

Ever since the 1918 Spanish influenza pandemic, scientists have dreamed of preventing catastrophic outbreaks of infectious disease. Yet, despite a century of medical progress, viral and bacterial disasters continue to take us by surprise, inciting panic and dominating news cycles. From the Spanish flu and the 1924 outbreak of pneumonic plague in Los Angeles, to the 1930 'parrot fever' pandemic and the more recent SARS, Ebola, Zika and – now – COVID-19 epidemics, the last 100 years have been marked by a succession of unanticipated pandemic alarms.

In The Pandemic Century, Mark Honigsbaum chronicles 100 years of history in 10 outbreaks. Bringing us right up-to-date with a new chapter on COVID-19, this fast-paced, critically-acclaimed book combines science history, medical sociology and thrilling front-line reportage to deliver the story of our times.

As we meet dedicated disease detectives, obstructive public health officials, and gifted scientists often blinded by their own expertise, we come face-to-face with the brilliance and medical hubris shaping both the frontier of science – and the future of humanity’s survival.

  • Pub date: 16 June 2020
  • ISBN: 9780753558287
  • Imprint: WH Allen
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 384
  • RRP: $26.00

About the Author

Mark Honigsbaum

Mark Honigsbaum PhD is a medical historian, journalist, and author of five books including The Pandemic Century: One Hundred Years of Panic, Hysteria, and Hubris and The Fever Trail: In Search of the Cure for Malaria. He hosts the podcast series, 'Going Viral: The Mother of all Pandemics', marking the centenary of the 1918 influenza pandemic. His TED-ED talk, ‘How Pandemics Spread’, has been viewed more than 2.5 million times. He is a former chief reporter of the Observer and holds a PhD in medical history. He is currently a lecturer at City University, London.


Praise for The Pandemic Century

“[A] riveting, vivid history of modern disease outbreaks ... A fascinating account of a deeply important topic—for if the past 100 years have taught us anything, it is that new diseases and viral strains will inevitably beset us, no matter how sophisticated science becomes.”

Robin McKie, The Observer

“A lively but less than reassuring read for those on exotic travels.”

Anjana Ahuja, Financial Times

“Some of the scenes in Mark Honigsbaum’s The Pandemic Century were so vivid they had me drafting movie treatments in my head ... Whether familiar or forgotten, parrot fever or Ebola, he finds striking similarities among them. And those similarities ought to make us worried about the next outbreak. If history is any guide, things may not go well.”

Carl Zimmer, New York Times Book Review

“Gripping.”

Barbara Kiser, Nature

“Mark Honigsbaum does a superb job covering a century’s worth of pandemics and the fears they invariably unleash. The moral of his cogent tale is that the next deadly pandemic is not a matter of if but of when, and preparing for that fact is a far better prescription than reacting with panic, fear, or indifference.”

Howard Markel, MD, PhD, George E. Wantz Distinguished Professor of the History of Medicine and director of the Center for the History of Medicine, University of Michigan

“An engaging and thoughtful journey through some of the world’s greatest medical and social crises in recent decades. Honigsbaum is a worthy historian and guide to these dramatic reminders of human fallibility.”

David L. Heymann, Professor of Infectious Disease Epidemiology, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

“Infectious diseases remain among the most urgent health threats we face, but too often are considered something that happens to other people, far away. In our interconnected world, this is no longer true, as Honigsbaum shows. His unique account drives home the human impact of epidemics, and the need for increased preparedness.”

Jeremy Farrar, Director of the Wellcome Trust

“Lively, gruesome, and masterful....Honigsbaum mixes superb medical history with vivid portraits of the worldwide reactions to each [pandemic] event.”

Kirkus (starred review)

“Engrossing....Combining history, popular science, and policy, [Honigsbaum] describes each pandemic with journalistic immediacy....An important and timely work.”

Booklist (starred review)

“Offers a mixture of gripping storytelling and insightful science....Alternately chilling and optimistic, Honigsbaum's reporting on a recurrent public health issue deserves wide attention.”

Publishers Weekly


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