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CGD in the News

Covid-19: The history of pandemics (BBC)

March 25, 2020

From the article:

“…The constant threat of disease, as much as any other factor, kept the reins on human development and expansion. At the dawn of the 19th Century, global life expectancy was just 29 years – not because human beings couldn’t live to much older ages even then, but because so many of us died in infancy from disease, or from infection during childbirth or after a wound. 

The cities of the pre-modern era were only able to keep up their populations through a continual infusion of migrants to make up for citizens who died off from disease. The development first of sanitation, and then of countermeasures like vaccines and antibiotics, changed all that.

‘The defeat of infection overcame these barriers and allowed us to have these great global cities,’ says Charles Kenny, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, a think tank in Washington DC, and the author of the forthcoming book Winning the War on Death: Humanity, Infection and the Fight for the Modern World.

It was a victory that won us the modern world as we know it…”

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Director of Technology and Development and Senior Fellow