Whenever I read an article about global climate change, it seems as though the focus is always forward – “what are we going to do?” However as an amateur historian of natural history, my mind tends to work better when asking questions not of the future but of the past.

Thus when a copy of Anthony McMichael’s new book Climate Change and the Health of Nations; Famines, Fevers, and the Fate of Populations recently arrived on my desk from Oxford University Press, a quick perusal of its jacket told me that there would be much to match my way of thinking contained in its pages. Professor McMichael, it seems, spends most of the book not looking forward to “what will we do?” but looking back into human and environmental history to examine “what did we do?” when centuries ago our ancestors encountered unexpected and destabilizing changes to the climates in which they lived.