In The White Plague, René and Jean Dubos argue that the great increase of tuberculosis was intimately connected with the rise of an industrial, urbanized society and—a much more controversial idea when this book first appeared forty years ago—that the progress of medical science had very little to do with the marked decline in tuberculosis in the twentieth century.
The White Plague has long been regarded as a classic in the social and environmental history of disease. This reprint of the 1952 edition features new introductory writings by two distinguished practitioners of the sociology and history of medicine. David Mechanic's foreword describes the personal and intellectual experience that shaped René Dubos's view of tuberculosis. Barbara Gutmann Rosenkrantz's historical introduction reexamines The White Plague in light of recent work on the social history of tuberculosis. Her thought-provoking essay pays particular attention to the broader cultural and medical assumptions about sickness and sick people that inform a society’s approach to the conquest of disease.