A diary of the plague yearBMJ 2010; 340 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.c2418 (Published 05 May 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:c2418
- Theodore Dalrymple, writer and retired doctor
Epidemics have inspired many writers, perhaps because it is always so tempting to suppose that people reveal what they most truly are under extreme conditions. As Mark Tapley put it in Martin Chuzzlewit, there’s no credit in being happy if the circumstances are favourable.
Be that as it may, human behaviour in epidemics is always fascinating to read about. A large volume published in 1920 by the American Red Cross and the Harvard University Press, entitled Typhus Fever with Particular Reference to the Serbian Epidemic, written mainly by Richard B Strong and George C Shattuck, is in certain ways rather reassuring.
The epidemic of typhus in Serbia in 1915 killed about 150 000 people, mainly …