The Origins of Human Disease

  • Publish Date: 1988-06-13
  • Binding: Hardcover
  • Author: Thomas McKeown
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This book is a history of the diseases of humankind from the earliest times to the present. It draws on the author's own work on the history of infection, as well as on evidence drawn from archaeology, history and demography. Professor McKeown argues that the causes of many diseases are social, the consequences of the requirements of the culture and society placing unaccounted for strains upon the biological organism. The agricultural and industrial developments of the last three centuries have brought greater control of the environment, an increase in food and protection from hazards, particularly from infective organisms. However, industrial and economic developments have also brought new threats to health, from profound changes in conditions of life for which human genes are not adapted. The author argues that the non-communicable diseases now common in developing countries are not to be regarded as a hard core of genetically determined conditions and that many apparently intractable conditions in the west are of fundamentally social and cultural origins. Furthermore, Professor McKeown considers that many of these are potentially preventable. How they may be prevented is the concluding theme of this work. Historians of disease and medicine, social historians; demographers, geographers, physical anthropologists; medical historians, sociologists, medical practitioners.