William Rosen

On sale now
The new book by the author of Justinian's Flea, The Most Powerful Idea in the World, and The Third Horseman


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Published by Viking, May 19, 2014: Also on sale now by the author of Justinian's Flea and The Most Powerful Idea in the World

In case you were wondering...

There's an old story about a man who lived in a medium-sized city in the early part of the 20th century. He didn't have all that much on the ball, but his family was politically connected, and made sure he had steady employment: A sinecure, polishing the Civil War cannon in the courthouse square. The job wasn't especially onerous, and paid a living wage, but, needless to say, its prospects for promotion were distinctly limited. Which is why, in the fullness of time, the man had a brainstorm. He bought himself a cannon, and went into business for himself. (Apologies to Robert Heinlein.)

That's my story, too. I was an editor and publisher at Macmillan, Simon & Schuster, and the Free Press, for nearly twenty-five years, acquiring and publishing bestselling and critically acclaimed books (not, sadly, always at the same time) by authors such as George F. Will, Roger Kahn, Maya Lin, William J. Bennett, Lynda Barry, Bernard Lewis, Leon Kass, Donald Johansen, Kirkpatrick Sale, Norman Podhoretz, Colin Tudge, and Dorothy Rabinowitz. It was steady and rewarding work; but nonetheless, in 2003, I bought my own cannon, and proceeded to write Justinian’s Flea: Plague, Empire, and the Birth of Europe (Viking 2007) followed by The Most Powerful Idea in the World: A Story of Steam, Industry, and Invention (Random House 2010) and The Third Horseman: Climate Change and the Great Famine of the 14th Century (Viking, 2014).

Along the way, I collaborated [Note: This is a euphemism for a term that rhymes with "toast fighting"] on half a dozen other books, contributed to The Wall Street Journal, The American Interest, Lapham’s Quarterly, The New Atlantis, The Washington Post Book World, Bloomberg, and Smithsonian’s Echoes, and appeared on BookTV, Digging for the Truth (on the History Channel) The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and dozens of radio shows.

Like the career of any working writer, this website is - always - a work in progress. Feel free to share any and all thoughts about it, my books and articles, or anything else, using the "Contact" page.

Selected Works

History, Science, Medicine
For fans of Microbe Hunters: The epic history of how antibiotics were born, saving millions of lives and creating a vast new industry known as Big Pharma. Miracle Cure explains why, given the complex nature of bacteria—and their ability to rapidly evolve into new forms—the only way to locate and test potential antibiotic strains is by large-scale, systematic, trial-and-error experimentation. Organizing that research needs large, well-funded organizations and businesses, and so our entire scientific-industrial complex, built around the pharmaceutical company, was born.
History, Science
The end of feudalism, and the beginning of European nation-states, against the background of a wrenching change in climate...the famine that marked the end of the Medieval Warm Period.
History, Economics, Science
A provocative examination of the most transformative event in human history: the Industrial Revolution. "A fascinating, wide-ranging narrative...A staggering work of epistemological research." KIRKUS REVIEWS (Starred review)
History, Medicine
A sweeping account of how nature's smallest organism brought down history's mightiest empire. "Eccentric and erudite...a massively ambitious work." THE GUARDIAN (London)

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