Skip to main content Accessibility help
The Guts of the Matter
  • Export citation
  • Recommend to librarian
  • Buy the print book

Book description

The Guts of the Matter is a study of our oldest ecological problem: the transmission of infectious intestinal disease from human waste. Spanning the early hominin era to the present, this book explores the evolution of human waste disposal practices, the use of faeces and urine as fertilizer, and the changing patterns of transmission of intestinal pathogens and parasites. Chapters trace the spread of viral, bacterial, and helminthic infections through the early processes of globalization and track the uneven successes of the sanitation revolution in recent centuries. The book also provides an overview of the cultural practices that influence the transmission of infectious intestinal disease and the impacts of biomedical advances such as oral rehydration therapy and vaccination. Webb's impressive breadth and meticulous research is invaluable for students of public health, environmental history, global history, and medicine.


'James Webb’s The Guts of the Matter delves deep into how and where people have relieved themselves, how this has been related to one group of parasitic diseases and how important this has been - and still is - to developments around the world. It changes readers' outlook on toilets and life.'

Iris Borowy - Shanghai University

'This global history illuminates large bio-social patterns key to the development of all human societies. The vicissitudes of human intestinal diseases - that persistently caused high mortality and sickness - are linked to human waste management and mismanagement, diverse hygienic practices, safe and unsafe water systems, and access to medical treatment (such as hookworm’s drugs, poliovirus vaccines and oral rehydration therapy for cholera). Developments in industrialized and colonial and postcolonial societies are masterfully compared. A sound contribution beyond the field of history.'

Marcos Cueto - Fundação Oswaldo Cruz, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Refine List

Actions for selected content:

Select all | Deselect all
  • View selected items
  • Export citations
  • Download PDF (zip)
  • Send to Kindle
  • Send to Dropbox
  • Send to Google Drive

Save Search

You can save your searches here and later view and run them again in "My saved searches".

Please provide a title, maximum of 40 characters.


  • 1 - Pathogens and Parasites
    pp 5-23


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Book summary page views

Total views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between #date#. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.