To Fiji with Measles

Terence Ranger

  • The Black Death and the Transformation of the West by David Herlihy
    Harvard, 117 pp, £17.95, October 1997, ISBN 0 674 07613 3
  • Plague, Pox and Pestilence edited by Kenneth Kiple
    Weidenfeld, 176 pp, £25.00, January 1997, ISBN 0 297 82254 3
  • Epidemics and History: Disease, Power and Imperialism by Sheldon Watts
    Yale, 400 pp, £30.00, January 1997, ISBN 0 300 07015 2

So-called World History originated in an attempt to escape from the tyrannical perspective of dead white Euro-American males, yet that ‘world’ perspective has had the effect of making those same males more dominant than ever. Thus Eric Wolf’s Europe and the People Without History (1982), however heroic in intention, ends up asserting that extra-European peoples did have a history, but it was a history of their relations with Euro-American economies. In his Age of Extremes, Eric Hobsbawm expresses his contempt for the historians who deny a past to Africa or Asia, but himself provides an account which gives all the agency to Europe.

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