Outlining a Project: Human Plague

I’ve had a bit of a blogging slump lately. I came back from the medieval congress with too many things on my mind to settle down to write a post. Nevertheless, it has been a productive couple of weeks. I’ve been working on an outline for one of the book projects that I mentioned quite a while back. I think its time to share some of those plans. I’m eager for feedback, criticism, suggestions… It won’t hurt my feelings at all and will be much appreciated! So here goes with the outline.

Working title: Human Plague: Natural History & Crisis Management


Part I: A Natural History of Yersinia pestis

1. Origin, Evolution and Biogeography (also including bacteriology and reservoirs)

2. Anatomy of an Epidemic (transmission and epidemiology)

3. Natural History of an Infection (diagnosis, pathophysiology, immunology)

Part II: Crisis Management

4.Government Response (legal, economic, & political)

5. Medical Care

6. Mortuary Care

7. Children and the Plague

8. Crises of Faith and Response

9. Scapegoating the Other

10. Signs of Resilience

Part III: Modern Concerns

11. Weaponizing the Plague

12. Plague Today

Appendix: Chronology

The theory here is that the first part is a natural history from the point of view of biologists, public health, and medicine. ‘Human plague’ because a natural history of Yersinia pestis or ‘the plague’ would primarily be about rodents. These chapters will work in the entire history of human plague from evolution of the bacterium in central Asia to its movements for the next 1500 years. Certainly most of the epidemiology will include pre-modern epidemics.

The second maybe two-thirds of the planned book is influenced by my biosecurity training. It’s hard to think about the plague without thinking about the 1500 years of crisis management with the same organism. I expect that this section will change dramatically as I work on it. This outline is really just some of the elements of crisis management: government reaction, medical care, mortuary care, special populations (here represented by children), religious crises as the most evident social impact, and religious and racial persecution, and evidence of resilience.

The last section is pretty self-explanatory. It will review evidence of plague as a biological weapon and continuing concerns that it will be used as a weapon. It will end with an assessment of where we are today with plague as re-emerging disease.

My goal is to write this at about the same level of technical difficulty as this blog. I hope that it is useful to all of the many disciplines involved in plague research and response in the sciences and humanities.

It seems like I’m trying to put an awful lot in one book but I don’t really have a baseline to judge that by. Feedback would be much appreciated in the comments below or by email!


3 thoughts on “Outlining a Project: Human Plague

  1. That is an awful lot to cover. If the second part is your particular interest, you’ll probably want to keep the first part relatively compressed, but making sure to cover what’s particularly relevant to part II.


  2. It looks very complete and interesting. Biotechnology for “weaponing the plague” may be a very marketable chapter, so please be careful about that information.


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