Originally published in 1943, Civilization and Disease was based on a series of lectures that the medical historian Henry E. Sigerist delivered at Cornell University in 1940. Now back in print, the book is a wide-ranging account of the importance of social factors on health and illness and the impact that disease has had on societies throughout human history. Despite considerable advances in both medicine and historiography, Civilization and Disease remains a landmark work in the history of medicine and a fascinating look at, first, civilization as a factor in the genesis and spread of disease, and second, the effects of disease on such aspects of civilization as economics, social life, law, philosophy, religion, science, and the arts. In a new foreword written for this edition, Elizabeth Fee outlines Sigerist’s life, works, and legacy as a historian, a teacher, and an advocate for universal health care, hailing Civilization and Disease as "an excellent introduction to Sigerist’s work."
"A thoroughly readable book in one of the most fascinating fields in human history.... Sigerist treats his rich material with admirable organization and selection, and writes clearly, urbanely, and unpretentiously."
"Sigerist makes clear, most interestingly and impressively, the great importance of social factors in health and in disease. The social activity which we call civilization is illuminatingly discussed through the adverse effects which its malfunctioning has upon the health of the individual."
New York Times
"It is a far cry from the Black Death to women’s corsets, but Sigerist gets both into the compass of his book. It is a fascinating story, told with rare skill."
Montreal Daily Star
"Sigerist examines with deep comprehension and admirable erudition which conditions have been and are favorable and which detrimental to the health of the individuals and the community. In each chapter, we find a fascinating survey of historical facts and a clear summary of the conclusion."
American Historical Review
"Civilization and Disease compellingly relates developments in medicine to economics, social life, the law and religion, and also to philosophy, literature and even music."
Times Higher Education