Soundings

Making death more acceptable

BMJ 1995; 311 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.311.7008.815a (Published 23 September 1995) Cite this as: BMJ 1995;311:815
  1. Tony Smith, associate editor
  1. BMJ

    My summer reading included John Keay's The Honourable Company, a history of the English East India Company (Harper Collins) and Sebastian Faulks's Birdsong (Vintage), a novel about the first world war. The two books had in common the appalling mortality of young men who volunteered to risk their lives for no very clear reasons beyond a wish for adventure. Until the end of the 18th century long distance voyages by sea carried a high risk of death from scurvy, while ports in the tropics were awash with dysentery, typhoid, and malaria. Ships commonly lost more than half their crews to disease--yet survivors would sign on for repeat trips.

    The same …

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