Book Review: Invisible Armies: The Impact of Disease on American History

Invisible Armies

Invisible Armies: The Impact of Disease on American History by Howard N. Simpson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

By now, we take for granted that disease was important, but the categorical way that Simpson documents hundreds of moments where disease played a deciding role in critical outcomes was shocking. Many of the stories were already familiar to me, but having all of them stringed together in a single 500 year narrative lends an impressive weight to the effects of micro-organisms in the development of the modern world.

This book isn’t the newest, having been published in 1980. So some of the novelty of the issue of the effects of disease on civilization and history has been lost if you have read more recent books like Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies. Nevertheless, this book is an interesting look at the often critical impact of disease on the development of the United States. It is also a fairly easy and quick read. If you have limited time don’t want to read multiple books on the topic I would recommend Guns, Germs, and Steel before Invisible Armies. However, I still think this book is pretty interesting and worth reading despite it being over 30 years since its publication.