Yellow Fever, Black Goddess: The Coevolution of People and Plagues

By Christopher Wills | Go to book overview

8
An ague very violent

Humboldt has observed, that 'under the torrid zone, the smallest marshes are the most dangerous, being surrounded, as at Vera Cruz and Carthagena, with an arid and sandy soil, which raises the temperature of the ambient air' ... In all unhealthy countries the greatest risk is run by sleeping on shore. Is this owing to the state of the body during sleep, or to a greater abundance of miasma at such times?

Charles Darwin, Voyage of the Beagle, 1845

Throughout most of World War Two, Britain struggled to retain its Far Eastern possessions at the same time as it fought to keep from being overwhelmed by the Germans on the home front. Its armies became stretched to the point of near-invisibility. Even by early 1943 they had been able to do little about the Japanese thrust into the north‐ west quadrant of Burma, which was coming close to the heavily-jungled Manipur state on the Indian side of the border. Then there was a short pause as the Japanese halted to resupply, which gave a small British-Indian army, hastily assembled under General Slim, the chance to engage them.

One member of this ragtag army was an uncle of mine by marriage. He had only just managed to finish a hurried and totally irrelevant training course in assault landing in Maharashtra before he was thrust with his fellow trainees into the steaming Burmese jungles. There he took part in repeated battalion-strength forays against the enemy's forward positions. The Japanese, exceedingly skilled by that time in jungle warfare, inflicted heavy casualties. My uncle was one of them.

-149-

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Yellow Fever, Black Goddess: The Coevolution of People and Plagues
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents *
  • Figures *
  • Author's Note xi
  • Part One - The Anatomy of Plagues *
  • 1 - The Delicate Balance between Life and Death 3
  • 2 - The Penumbra of Disease 29
  • 3 - The Worst of Times 37
  • Part Two - Chief Monster That Hast Plagued the Nations Yet .. *
  • 4 - Four Tales from the New Decameron 53
  • 5 - Was the Indian Plague Actually Plague, and If Not Why Not? 90
  • Part Three - Naïve and Cunning Diseases *
  • 6 - Cholera, the Black One 105
  • 7 - A Cleverer Pathogen 131
  • Part Four - The Challenge of the Temperate Zones *
  • 8 - An Ague Very Violent 149
  • 9 - Syphilis and the Faustian Bargain 186
  • Part Five - Plagues, Populations and the Biosphere *
  • 10 - Aids and the Future of Plagues 215
  • 11 - Safety in Diversity 254
  • 12 - Why So Many Diseases? 272
  • Glossary 295
  • Notes 304
  • Index 318
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