While we are in the throes of COVID-19, we need to remind ourselves that pandemics are not new and that many of them have been many times more deadly than the pandemic we face today. Our current crises is only eighth (3.4 million deaths) out of others like the Black Death (1347-1351 AD) at number one with 200 million deaths, The Smallpox in the New World (1520-1796) at number two with 56 million deaths, and the Spanish Flu (1918-1919) at number three with 40-50 million deaths. We must also remind ourselves that there will be future pandemics facing humanity.
Nardo gives the reader a look at pandemics of the past and helps us understand what science has learned from them. He also goes into the effect that disease had on the New World, both in loss of life of the indigenous population and the effect on the economy of their deaths. The Aztec people were almost totally wiped out by disease. Since they believed that the diseases were caused by gods and since they noticed that the conquerors were not getting sick (because of the immunity they had developed), many of them turned to the new god as their salvation.
He explains that the need for many laborers to work fields and the lack of indigenous people to do that led to the expansion of the African slave trade. Many Africans, like the Europeans, had developed immunity to the diseases which were killing off the natives. Nardo ends the work with a good discussion of COVID-19 and what has happened so far. He does not take sides on the debates swirling in our society. He provides facts and allows the reader to make his/her own decision. The book has excellent illustrations, a good bibliography and index. I think it will be very useful for middle school, high school, and public libraries.