The first unequivocally clear description of rheumatoid arthritis occurred in 1800. It is possible, however, that the disease existed in earlier times and that Emperor Constantine IX Monomachus (circa 980-1055) was a sufferer. The disease is common today in all races throughout the world. The features of rheumatoid arthritis are consistent with its being an infection, perhaps a slow-virus infection. On the basis of behaviour of other bacterial and viral infections, it is possible that we may now expect the current pandemic to disappear. Perhaps by the end of the next century it will be mild and rare or even non-existent.