Princes and Peasants. Smallpox in History

by Donald R. Hopkins, 380 pages. The University of Chicago Press, 5801 South Ellis Avenue, Chicago, IL 60637. 1983. $25.00

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  • Department of Epidemiology, School of Public Health, University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina 29206

Only the oldest among Americans and Europeans have had personal experience of the horror and tragedy of epidemic smallpox in their countries. A smaller number of younger physicians and epidemiologists have had this experience during the course of eradication campaigns, mostly in tropical areas. Soon, with the total elimination of smallpox since 1977, it will be merely a historical curiosity. It is most timely, therefore, that Dr. Hopkins has undertaken the task of assembling widely scattered records to produce this concise, authoritative, easily readable story of the devastating impact of smallpox on individuals, populations, and the history of mankind.

The book opens with a superb chapter which, in remarkably few but well chosen words, reviews the virology, pathogenesis, clinical presentation, inter-person transmission, the geographic origin and spread, and the history of thought about the cause and propagation of smallpox in relation to its treatment and prevention.