Book Review of Plagues and Peoples by William H. McNeill Essay

1649 Words 7 Pages
William H. McNeill makes a monumental contribution to the knowledge of humanity in his book Plagues and Peoples. He looks at the history of the world from an ecological point of view. From this viewpoint the history of human civilization is greatly impacted by changing patterns of epidemic infection. Plagues and Peoples suggests that "the time scale of world history...should [be] viewed [through] the "domestication" of epidemic disease that occurred between 1300 and 1700" (page 232). "Domestication" is perceived "as a fundamental breakthrough, directly resulting from the two great transportation revolutions of that age - one by land, initiated by the Mongols, and one by sea, initiated by Europeans" (page 232). This book illustrates …show more content…
He then introduces his subject for the next chapter. A reader would be extremely confused if there was a loose organization of material presented. He also provokes thought within his audience. He asks questions and works out all the possible logical answers. This truly assists Plagues and Peoples' audience in comprehension of the text.

History of the human experience is traditionally presented by historians through "emphasizing elements in the past that are calculable, definable, and, often, controllable" (page 22). In studying the conquest of Mexico and Cortez's incredible victory over the Aztecs, McNeill wonders why such a tiny handful of Amerindians survive after the arrival of Cortez. He also questions how the old religions of Mexico and Peru disappeared. How could literally millions of people succumb to fewer than six hundred men? All calculable and definable explanations to his questions, set forth by previous historians, seemed inadequate to explain the disappearance of an entire civilization, except disease. The detail of an outbreak of small pox among the Amerindians brought McNeill to his hypothesis for this book. Disease, he thought, was the only answer for such a tremendous defeat. He composed extensive research to promote his assumptions that it was, in fact, disease brought over from Europe that conquered the Amerindians, not the military skill of Cortez. He then wanted to know how those diseases flourished and survived in

Related Documents