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Social Science Disease & Health Issues


A History

by (author) Jacalyn Duffin

McGill-Queen's University Press
Initial publish date
Oct 2022
Disease & Health Issues, Virology
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2022
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Oct 2022
    List Price
  • Downloadable audio file

    Publish Date
    Dec 2023
    List Price

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For two years the COVID-19 pandemic has upended the world. The physician and medical historian Jacalyn Duffin presents a global history of the virus, with a focus on Canada.

Duffin describes the frightening appearance of the virus and its identification by scientists in China; subsequent outbreaks on cruise ships; the relentless spread to Europe, the Americas, Africa, and elsewhere; and the immediate attempts to confront it. COVID-19 next explores the scientific history of infections generally, and the discovery of coronaviruses in particular. Taking a broad approach, the book explains the advent of tests, treatments, and vaccines, as well as the practical politics behind interventions, including quarantines, barrier technologies, lockdowns, and social and financial supports. In concluding chapters Duffin analyzes the outcome of successive waves of COVID-19 infection around the world: the toll of human suffering, the successes and failures of control measures, vaccine rollouts, and grassroots opposition to governments’ attempts to limit the spread and mitigate social and economic damages.

Closing with the fraught search for the origins of COVID-19, Duffin considers the implications of an “infodemic” and provides an cautionary outlook for the future.

About the author

Jacalyn Duffin is a haematologist and historian who is Professor in the Hannah Chair of the History of Medicine at Queen`s University.

Jacalyn Duffin's profile page

Editorial Reviews

“As a physician, historian, and now volunteer contact-tracer, Duffin provides a unique perspective on the history of COVID-19. This well-written and engaging book is the most detailed historical overview to date on the first waves of the pandemic in Canada and around the world.” Catherine Carstairs, University of Guelph and author of The Smile Gap: A History of Oral Health and Social Inequality

“With verve and skill, Duffin tells a compelling story that is familiar in its big picture and new in its fine details. In the hands of most any other scholar, a short history of COVID-19 would be a blur, but in the hands of this leading medical historian, it’s a tour-de-force of smart analysis and clear writing. Among Duffin’s many strengths are her ability to draw on ancient, medieval, early modern, and modern history to deepen our understanding of the present, as well as her ability to weave different themes in and out of her text. Two stand out: scapegoating and the social determinants of health.” Literary Review of Canada

“Although there is a COVID book on almost every topic, Jacalyn’s Duffin’s history instantly stands out. She has written a global history that is both measured and sophisticated. Although there will be other histories of the pandemic, I am confident that Duffin’s analysis will occupy an important place in the historiography of COVID-19 for years to come.” The American Review of Canada Studies

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