Foreign Bodies: Pandemics, Vaccines and the Health of Nations

Ben Gummer at Literary Review:

I was left wondering after a moment of peak Simon Schama – where we are led from his ‘idle’ purchase in Paris of a slim old book on Marcel Proust’s father, Adrien, to his own bookshelves by the Hudson River – whether great historians must have something close to a Proustian affinity for a particular period of history, one they understand not simply as a result of study but which they inhabit emotionally, with a quality not far separated from a kind of memory. The reason why the dim fog of mid-medieval western Europe was cleared by Richard Southern is because he understood that world at an elemental level and could translate that understanding to the reader. The same is true when it comes to Steven Runciman writing on Crusade-torn Byzantium, Eamon Duffy on England on the eve of the Reformation and David Brading on early colonial Latin America.

For Schama, it is the Enlightenment beau monde.

more here.