Health Matters proposes an audacious new concept of human history. The author, George J. Hill, is a physician and historian. He argues that the primary goal of humans, from cave dwellers to those in the modern world, has been the search for good health and a long life. The quest for health has been to avoid illness, to treat disease and injuries, and to delay death. Humans were aware of the existence of a future, and this motivated them to search for health. They began with some qualities that were present in all animals, especially those that were enhanced in mammals. Humans found a unique advantage over all other animals when they discovered how to use fire. This enabled humans to do things that were impossible for other primates. Humans also discovered ways to make personal covering and weapons. With their use of fire, clothing, and weapons, it became possible for humans to control their environment, and to live anywhere on earth.
Health Matters takes the reader from what we all have, such as our body and mind, and the environment, to what we need - air, sun, and sleep. Hill's essay proceeds to add what he calls our urges: for water, food, shelter, and social connections. Hill discusses some of the unique aspects of humans, including the ability to domesticate animals. He lists our wants - for love and money - and he discusses the ways we look at death. The exceptions to the urges and wants are discussed, including those related to religion and irrational behavior. Hill traces the history of medicine from its start in hunter-gatherer communities in which one person, the healer-priest, would have the "gift" that was needed to provide for the group's health. Medicine developed from this early start into two paths. One was science and technology. The other was religion. Hill then takes the reader on a trip though human history, showing how good health or bad health has influenced decisions and outcomes, in individuals and in populations. He concludes with a discussion of historiography in science, religion, and medicine, as he affirms his argument that the search for health has been the driving force in human history. An index to full-names, places and subjects adds to the value of this work.
George J. Hill. M.D.
2021, 8½x11, paper, index, 340 pp.