4. Water, sewers, and empires

Introduction: the importance of biology

It is a major contention of this book that infectious disease has greatly influenced historical events. In this chapter, we consider the effect of disease, especially waterborne infections, on three major civilizations: the ancient Egyptians, the Indus Valley civilization, and the Roman Empire. Orthodox history emphasizes the actions of leaders, the strategies of generals, the policies of governments, and so forth. Sometimes the subsurface layer of economics is put forward as an underlying cause. But economics depends on the availability of raw materials and natural resources. However competent your rulers are and enlightened your fiscal policy is, creating a thriving society ...

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