Robert Peckham’s Epidemics in Modern Asia (Cambridge University Press, 2016) explores the crucial yet under-explored role that epidemics have played in both colonial and...

Robert Peckham’s Epidemics in Modern Asia (Cambridge University Press, 2016) explores the crucial yet under-explored role that epidemics have played in both colonial and postcolonial Asia. At once broad in sweep and nuanced in analysis, Peckham’s work explores a series of world-changing disease outbreaks across from the eighteenth century through the present.

Organized around five themes (Mobility, Cities, Environment, War, and Globalization), the book looks at the interrelationship between disease and human society at both the particular and hemispheric level. In doing so, the book challenges old assumptions about Asia as a pre-modern hotspot and site of contamination, as well as the narrative of triumphant progress of western medicine east. Instead, Peckham examines how disease, infection, and epidemic are translated across divides of culture and power in both the colonial and postcolonial periods. This innovative study is an essential read for a number of audiences. Whether readers are interested in the lasting impacts of intersections between colonial and indigenous peoples, the history of world capitalism and trade, the development of bureaucratic structures and government power, and/or the demographic and environmental impacts of the rise of the modern world, Epidemics in Modern Asia presents a powerful revisionist interpretation, bringing the history of epidemics to the center of the frame.

Robert Peckham is an Associate Professor of History at the University of Hong Kong, where he also serves as Director of the Centre for the Humanities and Medicine. He had edited two previous volumes, Empires of Panic: Epidemics and Colonial Anxieties (Hong Kong: University Press, 2014) and Disease and Crime: A History of Social Pathologies and the New Politics of Health (New York: Routledge: 2014). He also is co-editer, with David M. Pomfret, of Imperial Contagions: Medicine, Hygiene, and Cultures of Planning in Asia (Hong Kong: University of Hong Kong Press, 2014), as well as the author of a rich body of articles on Asian history and the history of medicine.

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