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On 25 July 2001 Phoolan Devi was shot dead outside her home. Best known in the west through Shekhar Kapur's 1994 film Bandit Queen, Phoolan Devi's life had been remarkable. Born of low-caste, at the age of 11 she had been exchanged in marriage for a cow. Following beatings by her much older husband, she made her way home, but was regarded as a disgrace by her family.
Over the past few years, no doubt as a consequence of HIV/AIDS newspapers have been full of stories about the threat from plagues some such as TB and bubonic plague appear like spectres from the past while apparently new diseases such as E-coli and the Ebola virus threaten to run riot in the future. It is against such a background that Christopher Wills has published Plagues.
Oh, East is East, and West is West,and never the twain shall meet,
Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God’s great Judgment Seat
But there is neither East nor West, Border,nor Breed, nor Birth
When two strong men stand face to face,though they come from the ends of the earth.
It is now a decade since these volumes appeared in French and their translation into English, impeccably done, and subsidised by the French Ministry of Culture (would that such an institution existed in Britain) makes available to students and scholars a collection of thirty essays compiled by what looks like a roll call of the most distinguished French anthropologists and historians of th