Making the most of malaria history

Tales of malaria fascinate me, how could they not? It is a dangerous, exotic, haphazard, and hopelessly romantic history. No other disease is as entwined with colonialism, war, and agricultural industry. Also, the basics haven’t changed much. Little in the past few decades has altered the underlying rationale and means of practical malaria control. Thus, along with fascinating stories there is a lot we can learn. A wise man (Dr J Kevin Baird) once told me:

A malariologist troubles himself to understand all of the gathered science of malaria, without regard to what technology has been applied to gather it. This means reading the old literature, a lot. The more I read it and understand it, a clear and somewhat disturbing message sinks in. There are very few malariologists actively publishing today. And the malaria scientists of today do not read or understand malariology. We make fundamental errors of strategy and strategic thinking.

In my readings thus far, this rings true. What the old literature provides is a rare element of perspective – a vantage point of clarity in an increasingly complex landscape. And the lens of history need not restrict our ambitions but can inform and temper our methods. So, where to look? In addition to your standard archived articles at the BMJ, JAMA, and other journals, two fantastic resources are:

1) Google Books – many incredible texts such as The Prevention of Malaria by Ronald Ross (1910) and The Practical Study of Malaria and Other Blood Parasites by JWW Stephens and SR Christophers (1904)

2) The National Library of Scotland – an entire collection of rare public health reports on plague, cholera, kala-azar, and malaria from the British era of India including the classic data of devastating malaria epidemics in the Punjab

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2 Responses to “Making the most of malaria history”


  1. 1 Kevin August 24, 2009 at 10:51 pm

    That was quick! Checking out those resources now…

    Kevin

  2. 2 barmak August 29, 2009 at 12:16 pm

    Thank you for this excellent reminder, Naman!


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