The advent of AIDS has led to a revival of interest in the historical relationship of disease to society. There now exists a new consciousness of AIDS and history, and of AIDS itself as an historic event. This provides the starting-point of this collection of essays. Its twin themes are the ‘pre-history’ of the impact of AIDS, and its subsequent history. Essays in the section on the ‘pre-history’ of AIDS analyse the contexts against which AIDS should be measured. The section on AIDS as history presents chapters by historians and policy scientists on such topics as British and US drugs policy, the later years of AIDS policies in the UK and the emergence of AIDS as a political issue in France. A final chapter looks at the archival potential in the AIDS area. As a whole the volume demonstrates the contribution that historians can make in the analysis of near-contemporary events.