This Mortal Coil: A Guardian, Economist & Prospect Book of the Year (Hardback)
  • This Mortal Coil: A Guardian, Economist & Prospect Book of the Year (Hardback)
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This Mortal Coil: A Guardian, Economist & Prospect Book of the Year (Hardback)

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£25.00
Hardback 384 Pages
Published: 03/02/2022

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Waterstones Says

An utterly fascinating history of the changing circumstances of death throughout the globe, This Mortal Coil digs deep into the societal, biological and medical reasons why we are now more likely to die of a stroke than infectious disease.

Causes of death have changed irrevocably across time. In the course of a few centuries we have gone from a world where disease or violence were likely to strike anyone at any age, and where famine could be just one bad harvest away, to one where in many countries excess food is more of a problem than a lack of it. Why have the reasons we die changed so much? How is it that a century ago people died mainly from infectious disease, while today the leading causes of death in industrialised nations are heart disease and stroke? And what do changing causes of death reveal about how previous generations have lived?

University of Manchester Professor Andrew Doig provides an eye-opening portrait of death throughout history, looking at particular causes - from infectious disease to genetic disease, violence to diet - who they affected, and the people who made it possible to overcome them. Along the way we hear about the long and torturous story of the discovery of vitamin C and its role in preventing scurvy; the Irish immigrant who opened the first washhouse for the poor of Liverpool, and in so doing educated the public on the importance of cleanliness in combating disease; and the Church of England curate who, finding his new church equipped with a telephone, started the Samaritans to assist those in emotional distress.

This Mortal Coil is a thrilling story of growing medical knowledge and social organisation, of achievement and, looking to the future, of promise.

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
ISBN: 9781526624413
Number of pages: 384
Weight: 706 g
Dimensions: 234 x 153 mm


MEDIA REVIEWS

You might expect a book on this morbid theme to be forbidding or sombre. This one is neither. Instead Mr Doig, a biochemist at the University of Manchester, tells an empowering story of human ingenuity - Economist

Surprisingly upbeat . . . The chapters on plague are the most interesting in the book, perhaps because they are so resonant and show how lucky we are to live in the age of the vaccine . . . Each chapter looks at a cause of death, ranging from scurvy to car safety, alcoholism to yellow fever . . . Full of curious facts . . . Although the book is about death, Doig is optimistic. Look at how life expectancy has soared across the world and infant mortality rates have plummeted - The Times

An absorbing read . . . A gripping and fascinating book; informative and seasoned with dry humour - Mail on Sunday

Told in five acts like a Shakespearean tragedy, Andrew Doig’s book considers our vulnerabilities and vices, from typhoid to tobacco . . . A compelling story that is made admirably accessible - Financial Times

Fascinating, clear-eyed . . . Woven through are a series of brilliant anecdotes of individual experiments, inventions and lethal misfortunes . . . Doig’s attention to detail, personable style and clear explanations make the book easily accessible . . . The obvious beauty of This Mortal Coil is that in being a history of death, it is also a history of life, and a brilliant, fascinating one at that - Scotsman

An utterly fascinating history of death, this masterful volume traces changes in the causes of mortality over the centuries - Waterstones

Rather than being a depressing read, the book actually gives a wonderful long-term perspective on our current situation, discussing plagues and famines of the past, living conditions and social organisation, and even looking at how causes of death might change in the future . . . This intriguing and detailed discussion of death and its causes provides a bedrock of context to look at how we might tackle mortality going forward . . . Oddly life-affirming - Big Issue

Charts the fascinating history of how humans die ... Doig tells an uplifting tale of how human ingenuity over the past few thousand years has allowed more of us to survive, and survive longer - Best Science Books of 2022, Guardian

From the black death to small pox, Andrew Doig’s This Mortal Coil reminds us that some of humankind’s most miraculous innovations – including vaccines, statistics and gene sequencing – arose from society’s attempts to thwart death . . . It’s hard to imagine a book with more relevant insights into how societies fail and succeed when navigating threats to life - City AM

This is a book that deserves a wide and appreciative audience - Oldie

The way we humans have died has changed profoundly over history: from famine and pestilence, to modern lifestyle diseases like obesity, heart disease and diabetes. In this gripping book, Andrew Doig explores the fascinating biology of our own mortality and, crucially, what death can teach us about life - Prof. Lewis Dartnell, author of ORIGINS: HOW THE EARTH SHAPED HUMAN HISTORY

Wry, insightful and optimistic, This Mortal Coil brings a compassionate yet amused eye to one of the last great taboos. Essential reading for us all - Matthew Cobb, Baillie Gifford Prize-shortlisted author of THE IDEA OF THE BRAIN

Andrew Doig tackles the complex and unsettling history of mortality with matter of fact and clarity but also with tenderness and humanity. This is a remarkable debut interspersing history with science to create a mille feuille of what it means to be human - Helen Carr, author of THE RED PRINCE and WHAT IS HISTORY, NOW?

This is a wonderful book: a history of life expectancy, of disease, of death, and of medicine all rolled up into one. An exceptional instance of a book with lots of statistics which is throughout an enthralling read. For anyone who wants to understand how we have come to live so long, and what we are likely to die of, this is a must read – and, since birth and death are the only things we all have in common, no subject could be more important to understand who we are and what will become of us - David Wootton

The story of how we die is deeply entwined with all of science, technology, economics, global health, sociology and human behaviour – in other words, pretty much everything. Which amounts to a book that is profound and original - Daniel M. Davis, author of THE BEAUTIFUL CURE and THE SECRET BODY

Big history meets biology in this meticulous chronicle of how death has shaped us, and how we have shaped it. Doig illuminates the historical and scientific idiosyncrasies behind our most universal experience explaining how, by trading plants and plagues, discovering continents and life-saving drugs, our collective past has determined our individual futures. If you're expecting a fascinating insight into why we die, This Mortal Coil delivers – but you'll also get an eye-opening account of how we've lived - Andrew Steele, author of AGELESS

The most fascinating book I’ve read in a long time. As much about how we live as how we die - Anna Mazzola, author of THE CLOCKWORK GIRL

In this detailed exploration of the many different ways in which human life can end, Andrew Doig takes us on a killer ride from the earliest systematic records of death, through the tremendous toll infection has had over history, to the ways in which we kill ourselves and others through drugs, pollution and motor vehicles. If you are dying to know how we die, this is the book for you - John Tregoning, author of INFECTIOUS

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“Good stuff”

This really was a pleasure to read. I had worried it might be a bit turgid, but it was written in such a clear and accessible manner that I really whizzed through the book. Each main cause of death is examined in... More

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