Saturday, 30 May 2009

Malaria worry + 1381 and all that

Last month there was some good news on malaria (see my blog of April 11). Now there’s some bad, with worrying signs that the parasite is becoming resistant to what is at present the most effective drug for treating the disease. The trend has appeared in Cambodia, where use of the drug is often poorly controlled and where fakes are sold widely.

Scientists say there is no cause for immediate alarm, but earlier anti-malarial drugs have been undermined by resistance starting in this part of the world. A million people a year die from malaria, and it’s estimated that no less than half of the world’s population is exposed to the disease.

On this day….628 years ago, a group of government officials rode into Brentwood in Essex, and summoned people from the villages around to come and pay the hated poll tax – raised to pay for the Hundred Years’ War. A hundred turned up, and stoned them out of town. It was the start of the Peasants’ Revolt.

The rebels would plunder Rochester and Canterbury, and take control of London, burning down the Savoy Palace and many other buildings. They killed tax collectors and foreigners, then they executed the Chancellor and the King’s Treasurer. Eventually, the authorities managed to murder the rebel leader Wat Tyler, and make enough concessions to con his followers into going home. The government quickly disowned the promises it had made, and pursued the rebels mercilessly, carrying out so many mass executions that there was a shortage of gibbets. For the full story, see A Disastrous History of Britain.

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