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May 2016 Vol. 53 No. 9

Ohio University Press/Swallow Press

The following review appeared in the May 2016 issue of CHOICE. The review is for your internal use only. Please review our Permission and Reprints Guidelines or email

Science & Technology
Health Sciences

McCann, James C. The historical ecology of malaria in Ethiopia: deposing the spirits. Ohio University, 2015. 196p bibl index afp ISBN 9780821421468, $75.00; ISBN 9780821421475 pbk, $28.95; ISBN 9780821445136 ebook, contact publisher for price.

Having survived malaria twice, this reviewer testifies that it is no joke.  The disease is a serious health problem; up to one million Africans, mostly children, die annually.  This thorough country history is thus welcome.  It explores malaria's etiology, effects, and the challenges of minimizing, if not controlling, its impact.  Historian McCann (Boston Univ.) draws on decades of Ethiopian field experience and familiarity with its historical sources.  He describes a series of devastating epidemics since the 1700s and concerted eradication campaigns, mostly in the postwar era.  The struggle persists because malaria's mutations counterpunch brilliantly against all opposition, though McCann deftly employs chess and dance metaphors.  His research team’s innovative findings document links between expanding maize cultivation and incidence of mosquito vectors.  Interestingly, significant data derives from Italy’s fleeting 1936–41 occupation, Ethiopia’s earliest “developmentalist” regime.  Fascinating anecdotes reveal local disease understandings, often blaming malign spirits (hence the subtitle).  McCann respects Ethiopians' efforts to comprehend this scourge but gives little credence to traditional remedies instead of biomedical responses or environmental engineering, which themselves yield limited results.  Malaria severely challenges public health, but this study will aid the struggle.

--T. P. Johnson, University of Massachusetts, Boston

Summing Up: Recommended. Academic and large public libraries, all levels.