Morbid Symptoms

Morbid Symptoms:An Anatomy of a World in Crisis

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A health check on our corrupt and broken political system by one of our finest historians

The deadly coronavirus spread across societies already riddled with political ills: rampant xenophobia and corruption, privatisation run amok, Brexiteer vainglory of 'a global Britain’, a Euroland dominated by self-proclaimed nasty parties, and in America, the unspeakable Trump. As the acclaimed historian Donald Sassoon observes in this blistering polemic, there were morbid symptoms galore.

Sassoon paints an unforgettable picture of our galloping descent into political barbarism, mixing blunt exposé and classical references with an astonishing array of data. Why does the United States proportionately have more civilians owning guns than Yemen, where there is a war on? Why did the UK enter the pandemic with fewer doctors than any EU country except Poland and Romania?

In Morbid Symptoms he refuses to abandon what Antonio Gramsci termed the optimism of the will, instead recalling a line from Machiavelli’s Istorie fiorentine: ‘do not impute past disorders to the nature of the men, but to the times, which, being changed, give reasonable ground to hope that, with better government, our city will have better fortune in the future’.


  • Sassoon is both a brilliant writer and has a polymathic range. He has produced a magnum opus, an accessible and genuinely global history of the transformative but unstable character of the capitalist phenomenon. This is a book for today and tomorrow

    Harold JamesFinancial Times [for The Anxious Triumph]
  • Studded with fascinating details . . . Familiar facts mingle with jaw-dropping novelties . . . brilliant

    Adam ToozeGuardian [for The Anxious Triumph]
  • An unfailingly enjoyable history of a tumultuous half-century. His asides are sometimes playful, sometimes caustic, but always to the point . . . masterly . . . the doyen of comparative historians

    Ferdinand MountTimes Literary Supplement [for The Anxious Triumph]