The Mosquito

The Mosquito

A Human History of Our Deadliest Predator

Book - 2019
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Why was gin and tonic the cocktail of choice for British colonists in India and Africa? What does Starbucks have to thank for its global domination? What has protected the lives of popes for millennia? Why did Scotland surrender its sovereignty to England? What was George Washington's secret weapon during the American Revolution? The answer to all these questions, and many more, is the mosquito. Across our planet since the dawn of humankind, this nefarious pest, roughly the size and weight of a grape seed, has been at the frontlines of history as the grim reaper, the harvester of human populations, and the ultimate agent of historical change. As the mosquito transformed the landscapes of civilization, humans were unwittingly required to respond to its piercing impact and universal projection of power. The mosquito has determined the fates of empires and nations, razed and crippled economies, and decided the outcome of pivotal wars, killing nearly half of humanity along the way. She (only females bite) has dispatched an estimated 52 billion people from a total of 108 billion throughout our relatively brief existence. As the greatest purveyor of extermination we have ever known, she has played a greater role in shaping our human story than any other living thing with which we share our global village.
Publisher: New York : Dutton, An imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, [2019]
Copyright Date: ©2019
ISBN: 9781524743413
Call Number: 595.772 W767m 2019
Characteristics: x, 486 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm


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Apr 16, 2020

Microhistory, or the history of the minute, is becoming increasingly popular. Oxford-trained historian Timothy C. Winegard has joined in the fun and, in this book, traces the impact mosquitos have had on western civilizations and the world. ⁣

From the Peloponnesian War to the American Civil War, from Starbucks’ success to the GDP of malaria-inflicted countries, mosquitos have influenced our conflicts, economies and landscapes. ⁣

Despite the plethora of statistics and quotes Winegard garners, what struck me most about this book is its snapshot of human nature. Lots of people are now blaming inequality on capitalism, but this book shows that the privileged have always readily dispensed of their less fortunate counterparts for gains. Generals ordered their subordinates into swamps swarming with mosquitos; tycoons ushered servants and slaves into their midst, basing wealth and status on others’ demises. ⁣

While slavery had existed for millennia, it first became racially based when the colonists recognized the Africans’ stronger resistance (now known as immunity) to malaria, making the latter more cost-efficient than other populations on sugar plantations. And when slavery contradicted the whole idea of human equality? Well, guess some humans were not completely human, after all. ⁣

Don’t blame it on the social system. It’s the people. ⁣

It’s the greed. ⁣

The book is long and, at times, sounds like a military history. Sometimes Winegard also pushes his points too far, making one question the soundness of his argument. Yet the book kept my attention throughout, sometimes surprising due to the the apparent arbitrariness of world events, at other times disgusting for the baseness of the human avarice. It is witty, painstakingly-researched and thought-provoking. ⁣

And well deserves its four stars.

For more book and movie reviews, visit me on Instagram @ RandomStuffIRead !

Oct 20, 2019

What a big book about such a small subject —- small but mighty. Winegard’s book, which, incidentally, is addictively easy and enlightening read isn’t so much about the mosquito itself —- no mosquito sex or acrobatic flying nor food preferences, but rather it focuses on how these despicable creatures have intersected with the history of mankind. They have tilted the outcome of war and peace; they have been instrumental in the loss of armies and the fall of civilizations. And at other times they have saved civilizations from the foreign invader. The mosquito is tremendously armed fo biological warfare. Yellow fever; typhoid and malaria are her most formidable weapons.
Read this book: you may never want to go outside during mosquito season again.


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