Deadly companions

how microbes shaped our history

250 pages

English language

Published March 3, 2009 by Oxford University Press.


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4 stars (1 review)

Ever since we started huddling together in communities, the story of human history has been inextricably entwined with the story of microbes. They have evolved and spread amongst us, shaping our culture through infection, disease, and pandemic. At the same time, our changing human culture has itself influenced the evolutionary path of microbes. Dorothy H. Crawford here shows that one cannot be truly understood without the other. Beginning with a dramatic account of the SARS pandemic at the start of the 21st century, she takes us back in time to follow the interlinked history of microbes and man, taking an up-to-date look at ancient plagues and epidemics, and identifying key changes in the way humans have lived - such as our move from hunter-gatherer to farmer to city-dweller - which made us vulnerable to microbe attack. Showing how we live our lives today - with increasing crowding and air travel …

7 editions

A great introduction to microbes and pandemics

4 stars

I really liked reading "Deadly companions", it was one of the first books I read about microbes and viruses and I learned a lot. The author makes a great work at explaining what we know and don't know about the history of viruses with many anecdotes, and look both at the past and challenges in the future. The only drawback I see is that doing a book that is going through history, it gets a bit disorganized when many diseases are coming back in history, and quickly get into a mix of historical and per disease narrative. It should also be noted that the book was published in 2007 and lack some recent knowledge (like of course Covid but also recent knowledge about Ebola). Still a really good book, highly recommend it!


  • Epidemics -- History
  • Infection -- History
  • Communicable diseases -- History
  • Diseases and history