Nineteenth Century Urban Epidemics


This course explores the social history of urban epidemics in 19th Century North America. The devastation wrought by smallpox, cholera, and yellow fever, and the success of science and public policy in combatting them, is one of the triumphal stories of the period from the American Revolution to the First World War. Even more dramatic are the cultural effects of epidemic disease: the governments toppled, the bogus patent medicines sold by the train-load, the civic boosters who pitched the health of their own cities over the pestilence of their rivals, and the struggle of men versus women, sacred versus secular, native versus immigrant, local versus state, and colony versus metropolis in responding to these crises.