A book to dissect epidemics


The Covid-19 has undoubtedly caused a major upheaval in our daily lives, beyond its health impact. The repercussions are still being experienced today, and even if some regret that the « world after » is very similar to the « world before », no one can deny health, social, cultural and political changes. It is this generalized impact that characterizes major epidemics. Because the Covid-19 is not the first to affect humanity, and probably not the last.

Starting from the Black Death in the XIVe century up to HIV, passing through smallpox, cholera and others, this work (1) outlines the different facets of epidemics. It is not a question of describing the diseases, but of analyzing their impact on society. We discover for example the old register of Givry, in Burgundy, where the priest noted every day the deaths linked to the plague, until November 19, 1348, when everything stops. Was the religious himself taken away by illness? History does not tell it, but the register resumes a few months later, this time to report the increase in marriages with the end of the epidemic. A situation that is reminiscent of that of this summer!

Very well illustrated, the book also analyzes campaign posters against AIDS, at a time when the disease remained a taboo. Reflections of hardships, struggles, but also progress, all the documents are taken from the rich collection of the National Archives, which is organizing an exhibition on this theme (2). What put into perspective the Covid-19, which, too recent, has not yet found its place in the archives.

(1) Book from the National Archives, Éditions Michel Lafon, 200 pages, €29.

(2) 60 rue des Francs-Bourgeois, Paris 3rd. Until February 6, 2023. Info. : archives-nationales.culture.gouv.fr


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