Foreign Bodies: Pandemics, Vaccines, and the Health of Nations Audiobook, by Simon Schama Play Audiobook Sample

Foreign Bodies: Pandemics, Vaccines, and the Health of Nations Audiobook

Foreign Bodies: Pandemics, Vaccines, and the Health of Nations Audiobook, by Simon Schama Play Audiobook Sample
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Read By: Simon Schama Publisher: HarperAudio Listen Time: at 1.0x Speed 10.83 hours at 1.5x Speed 8.13 hours at 2.0x Speed Release Date: September 2023 Format: Unabridged Audiobook ISBN: 9780063337855

Quick Stats About this Audiobook

Total Audiobook Chapters:


Longest Chapter Length:

74:40 minutes

Shortest Chapter Length:

07 seconds

Average Chapter Length:

39:01 minutes

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Publisher Description

A vibrant cultural history investigating pandemics and vaccines, by bestselling author and historian Simon Schama

Cities and countries engulfed by panic and death, desperate for vaccines but fearful of what inoculation may bring. This is what the world has just gone through with Covid-19. But as Simon Schama shows in his epic history of vulnerable humanity caught between the terror of contagion and the ingenuity of science, it has happened before.

Characteristically, Schama’s message is delivered through gripping, page-turning stories set in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries: smallpox strikes London; cholera hits Paris; plague comes to India. Threading through the scenes of terror, suffering and hope – in hospitals and prisons, palaces, and slums – are an unforgettable cast of characters: a philosopher-playwright burning up with smallpox in a country chateau; a vaccinating doctor paying house calls in Halifax; a woman doctor in south India driving her inoculator-carriage through the stricken streets as dead monkeys drop from the trees. But we are also in the labs when great, life-saving breakthroughs happen, in Paris, Hong Kong, and Mumbai.

At the heart of it all is an unsung hero: Waldemar Haffkine, a gun-toting Jewish student in Odesa turned microbiologist at the Pasteur Institute, hailed in England as “the saviour of mankind” for vaccinating millions against cholera and bubonic plague in British India while being cold-shouldered by the medical establishment of the Raj. Creator of the world’s first mass production line of vaccines in Mumbai, he is tragically brought down in an act of shocking injustice.

Foreign Bodies crosses borders between east and west, Asia and Europe, the worlds of rich and poor, politics and science. Its thrilling story carries with it the credo of its author on the interconnectedness of humanity and nature; of the powerful and the people. Ultimately, Schama says, as we face the challenges of our times together, “there are no foreigners, only familiars.” 

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“A meticulous retelling of a terrible yet scientifically innovative period…Schama makes an urgent case for building a better future on our toxic past.”

— The Guardian (London) 


  • “This is history of the best sort—humanly engaged but never sentimental.”

    — Mail on Sunday (London)
  • “A splendid and often moving work of history.”

    — Daily Telegraph (London)
  • “An epic and impassioned history.”

    — Financial Times (London)
  • “A vivid account of the horror of epidemics and the breakthroughs that can bring them under control.”

    — Kirkus Reviews
  • “Schama’s wide-ranging history brings worthwhile lessons from the past to the present. Readers will be enlightened.”

    — Publishers Weekly

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About Simon Schama

Simon Schama is a professor of art history and history at Columbia University and is the author of numerous award-winning books; his history Rough Crossings won the National Book Critics Circle Award for nonfiction. He has been a cultural essayist for the New Yorker and has written and presented more than thirty documentaries for the BBC, PBS, and the History Channel, including The Power of Art, which won the 2007 International Emmy for Best Arts Programming.