Category Archives: History

Magh mela 2021 will go ahead despite the pandemic

THE Magh Mela, the annual Hindu pilgrimage to Prayagraj, India, usually attracts around 10 million people. Officials announced last month that it will go ahead as planned this winter—despite the country’s high number of new COVID-19 cases…

Magh Mela, India, 1909

This article first appeared in National Geographic on 12 November 2020. To continue reading, click here.

Meet the collapsologists

MICHEL Rosell gathers up a mass of papers and divides them into two piles. On the left are bills: a single sheet. On the right is a sheaf of letters from friends and lovers. “If the pile of letters is growing faster than the pile of bills, you’re on the right track,” says Rosell. “If it’s the other way round, you’re on the wrong track. It’s not that hard, the revolution I’m proposing…”

Michel Rosell, July 2020

This article first appeared in The Guardian on 11 October 2020. To continue reading, click here.

 

The Covid novels are arriving

THE first coronavirus novel from a major British writer has just been published. Summer, the last book in Scottish writer Ali Smith’s seasonal quartet, is infused with the pandemic we are living through. That it has appeared now is a tribute to the agility of both author and publisher, whose goal was to produce literature in as close to real time as possible. Does it herald a coming wave of pandemic fiction…?

This article first appeared in The Guardian on 7 August 2020. To continue reading, click here.

On the origins of smallpox

THE death date of smallpox is clear. After killing more than 300 million people in the twentieth century, it claimed its last victim in 1978; two years later, on 8 May 1980, the World Health Assembly declared that the variola virus, which causes smallpox, had been eradicated. But the origins of this devastating virus are obscure. Now, genetic evidence is starting to uncover when smallpox first started attacking people…

Korean smallpox goddess, late Joseon era (17th-19th Centuries)

This article first appeared in Nature on 23 July 2020. To continue reading, click here (paywall).

 

On plague memory (again)

RUMINATING on why the 1918 flu pandemic wasn’t better remembered, the African historian Terence Ranger concluded in the early 2000s that the story wasn’t being told right. The vast majority of the victims—50 million of them at a conservative count—perished in a mere 13 weeks at the tail end of 1918, all over the globe. It was a planetary convulsion that was over in the blink of an eye, but whose impact reverberated through human societies for decades to come…

The Pull of the Stars, by Emma Donoghue (2020)

This article first appeared in Wired on 20 July 2020. To  continue reading, click here.