Infectious disease is a general term for sicknesses caused by pathogens invading and multiplying in one’s body. Pathogens—bacteria, viruses, protozoans—have existed on this planet since long before the birth of human beings. So, we have been troubled by them since the dawn of history.
Advances in transportation have turned mere local outbreaks of disease into pandemics which threaten human civilization, from the smallpox which weakened the Roman Empire to COVID-19, which is now inflicting enormous damage throughout the world. Infectious diseases endanger our lives and force changes in our way of life.
Infectious diseases have made a great impact on us from the ancient times, but we have eradicated them or reduced their mortality rate each time through medical advances and the development of public health. This article will show how Japan dealt with several past pandemics of diseases through materials held by the NDL.

  • These high-definition images are available in the National Diet Library Digital Collections. Those that are labelled NDL Digital Collections can be viewed via the Internet on any computer. Those labelled Restricted access can only be viewed on computer terminals at the NDL or an affiliated library, or via the Digitized Contents Transmission Service for Individuals. For more information, please refer to the webpages for the Digitized Contents Transmission Service for Libraries and Digitized Contents Transmission Service for Individuals.
  • A string in square brackets is a NDL Call Number.
  • The original Japanese-language article first appeared in November 2012 as part of Small Electronic Exhibitions Kaleidoscope of Books, No. 11. Please note that the descriptions herein are based on information that was current at that time.

Smallpox, Plague/Black Death

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