All together nowBMJ 2008; 336 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.39469.453738.59 (Published 24 January 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;336:220
- Wendy Moore, freelance writer and author
In celebrating the 60th anniversary of the World Health Organization this year, it is humbling to reflect that for most of human history international cooperation has been notable by its absence.
Early races and cultures were more likely to persecute each other as the perceived carriers of lethal diseases than to join forces in mutual opposition. The Mongols pioneered germ warfare when they catapulted plague-ridden corpses into the besieged Black Sea port of Caffa in 1347, thereby launching the Black Death on its devastating sweep through Europe. When syphilis was first observed in 1495, each successive nation of sufferers named the scourge after their closest enemies, so that the French called it “the Neapolitan …