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4.0 out of 5 stars Good reference Book, 5 May 2012
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John H. Williams (Cardiff Wales) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Cholera: The Biography (Biographies of Disease) (Kindle Edition)
Not for the casual reader, this is a learned book with an exploration of all aspects of Cholera. Good as a reference book but not as bedside reading.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive and erudite biographical account of a fascinating disease, 29 May 2014
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A dazzling work with an array of new historical and scientific data about a truly fascinating subject. Cholera was more than a disease, it was a historical turning point.The first epidemics of the early 19th Century shattered the self confident overweening worldview of the Victorian establishment.How would a highly fatal disease endemic to the filthy huddled Asiatic masses reach the advanced European societies?It struck indiscriminately its hapless victims respecting no class or status.It killed quickly in a horrific manner.It threatened the social order.What could be done to arrest its inexorable progress when the medical opinions were unsure or divided about its underlying cause?The responses to Cholera became laden with political and cultural attitudes inspired by utilitarian meliorism and liberal norms of equal citizenship and social justice.In a perverse way the disease became the catalyst of the Public health movement.

The definition of Cholera was a watershed with the gradual demise of the dominant " miasma " theory and the rise of the previously dismissed "contagion" theory buttressed now by the new germ theory. It fuelled the anxieties that led to the first serious epidemiological studies of pestilent disease with the investigations of John Snow who elicited its mode of transmission through contaminated water by human excreta.Cholera was the prime motor of the reformist Sanitarian movement in the 1830's to transform the squalid filthy urban landscapes despite the sceptical views of its proponents about the contagious role of polluted water.Ironically the bacterium Vibrio Cholerae despite its discovery by Koch in 1883 remains to this day intractable in its pathological behaviour by constantly changing genetic identity, virulence and preferred bio ecological niches.

The author shows consummate mastery of his complex multifaceted subject. The text is witty, iconoclastic and extremely well researched. Though a serious read, it should appeal to a wide range of potentially interested History readers without necessarily a medical background.
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