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1 Beaverton Health and Medicine- History of Medicine

Pox: An American History

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ISBN13: 9781594202865
ISBN10: 1594202869
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

The untold story of how America's Progressive-era war on smallpox sparked one of the great civil liberties battles of the twentieth century.

At the turn of the last century, a powerful smallpox epidemic swept the United States from coast to coast. The age-old disease spread swiftly through an increasingly interconnected American landscape: from southern tobacco plantations to the dense immigrant neighborhoods of northern cities to far-flung villages on the edges of the nascent American empire. In Pox, award-winning historian Michael Willrich offers a gripping chronicle of how the nation's continent-wide fight against smallpox launched one of the most important civil liberties struggles of the twentieth century.

At the dawn of the activist Progressive era and during a moment of great optimism about modern medicine, the government responded to the deadly epidemic by calling for universal compulsory vaccination. To enforce the law, public health authorities relied on quarantines, pesthouses, and "virus squads"-corps of doctors and club-wielding police. Though these measures eventually contained the disease, they also sparked a wave of popular resistance among Americans who perceived them as a threat to their health and to their rights.

At the time, anti-vaccinationists were often dismissed as misguided cranks, but Willrich argues that they belonged to a wider legacy of American dissent that attended the rise of an increasingly powerful government. While a well-organized anti-vaccination movement sprang up during these years, many Americans resisted in subtler ways-by concealing sick family members or forging immunization certificates. Pox introduces us to memorable characters on both sides of the debate, from Henning Jacobson, a Swedish Lutheran minister whose battle against vaccination went all the way to the Supreme Court, to C. P. Wertenbaker, a federal surgeon who saw himself as a medical missionary combating a deadly-and preventable-disease.

As Willrich suggests, many of the questions first raised by the Progressive-era antivaccination movement are still with us: How far should the government go to protect us from peril? What happens when the interests of public health collide with religious beliefs and personal conscience? In Pox, Willrich delivers a riveting tale about the clash of modern medicine, civil liberties, and government power at the turn of the last century that resonates powerfully today.

Review:

"Today's controversies over vaccinations pale beside the pitched battles fought at the turn of the 20th century, to judge by this probing work. Historian Willrich (City of Courts) revisits the smallpox epidemic that ravaged the United States from 1898 to 1904 and sparked a showdown between the burgeoning Progressive-era regulatory regime and Americans fearful of the new Leviathan state and the specter of 'state medicine.' Anxious to stamp out the contagion, public health officials in the South quarantined African-Americans in detention camps if they were suspected of carrying the disease and vaccinated others at gunpoint; in New York 'paramilitary vaccination squads' raided immigrant tenements, forcibly inoculating residents and dragging infected children off to pesthouses; their coercive methods sparked occasional riots and lawsuits that helped remake constitutional law. Willrich sees merit on both sides: draconian public health measures saved thousands of lives, but resisters did have legitimate concerns about vaccine safety and side effects, racial targeting and bodily integrity. He does tend to romanticize anti-vaccine activists, whose movement he associates with feminism, free speech, and abolitionism, styling them as 'libertarian radicals' engaging in 'intimate acts of civil disobedience.' Still, his lucid, well-written, empathetic study of a fascinating episode shows why the vaccine issue still pricks the American conscience. Photos. (Apr. 4)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)

Review:

"Willrich's account of the early days of the American progressive movement couldn't be more instructive or timely...a worthy read." Booklist (starred review)

Review:

"Willrich melds meticulous research with elegant writing to create a richly- textured social history...at the charged intersection of science, politics, race, and culture...You'll never think the same way again about the now all-but- mechanical ritual of rolling up your shirtsleeve for a vaccine needle." Hampton Sides, author of Hellhound on His Trail

Review:

"...In the highly skilled hands of Michael Willrich, hard cases make great history. We all have much to learn from this excellent book." David Hackett Fischer, author of Champlain's Dream and Washington's Crossing

Review:

"Pox is a scholarly rarity: an important and deeply-researched book that speaks not only to historians, but to any thoughtful reader...he has made a lasting contribution to our understanding of the complex and tangled relationship between the powers and responsibilities of the state and the autonomy of individual men and women." Charles Rosenberg, author of The Cholera Years

Review:

"In Pox: An American History, Michael Willrich meticulously traces the story of how the smallpox vaccine was pressed into service during a major outbreak." The Wall Street Journal

Synopsis:

The United States is among the wealthiest nations in the world. But that wealth hasn't translated to a higher life expectancy, an area where the United States still ranks thirty-eighthand#151;behind Cuba, Chile, Costa Rica, and Greece, among many others. Some fault the absence of universal health care or the persistence of social inequalities. Others blame unhealthy lifestyles. But these emphases on present-day behaviors and policies miss a much more fundamental determinant of societal health: the state.

Werner Troesken looks at the history of the United States with a focus on three diseasesand#151;smallpox, typhoid fever, and yellow feverand#151;to show how constitutional rules and provisions that promoted individual liberty and economic prosperity also influenced, for good and for bad, the countryand#8217;s ability to eradicate infectious disease. Ranging from federalism under the Commerce Clause to the Contract Clause and the Fourteenth Amendment, Troesken argues persuasively that many institutions intended to promote desirable political or economic outcomes also hindered the provision of public health. We are unhealthy, in other words, at least in part because our political and legal institutions function well. Offering a compelling new perspective, The Pox of Liberty challenges many traditional claims that infectious diseases are inexorable forces in human history, beyond the control of individual actors or the state, revealing them instead to be the result of public and private choices.

Synopsis:

The untold story of how America's Progressive-era war on smallpox sparked one of the great civil liberties battles of the twentieth century.

At the turn of the last century, a powerful smallpox epidemic swept the United States from coast to coast. The age-old disease spread swiftly through an increasingly interconnected American landscape: from southern tobacco plantations to the dense immigrant neighborhoods of northern cities to far-flung villages on the edges of the nascent American empire. In Pox, award-winning historian Michael Willrich offers a gripping chronicle of how the nation's continentwide fight against smallpox launched one of the most important civil liberties struggles of the twentieth century.

At the dawn of the activist Progressive era and during a moment of great optimism about modern medicine, the government responded to the deadly epidemic by calling for universal compulsory vaccination. To enforce the law, public health authorities relied on quarantines, pesthouses, and "virus squads"-corps of doctors and club-wielding police. Though these measures eventually contained the disease, they also sparked a wave of popular resistance among Americans who perceived them as a threat to their health and to their rights.

At the time, anti-vaccinationists were often dismissed as misguided cranks, but Willrich argues that they belonged to a wider legacy of American dissent that attended the rise of an increasingly powerful government. While a well-organized anti-vaccination movement sprang up during these years, many Americans resisted in subtler ways-by concealing sick family members or forging immunization certificates. Pox introduces us to memorable characters on both sides of the debate, from Henning Jacobson, a Swedish Lutheran minister whose battle against vaccination went all the way to the Supreme Court, to C. P. Wertenbaker, a federal surgeon who saw himself as a medical missionary combating a deadly-and preventable-disease.

As Willrich suggests, many of the questions first raised by the Progressive-era antivaccination movement are still with us: How far should the government go to protect us from peril? What happens when the interests of public health collide with religious beliefs and personal conscience? In Pox, Willrich delivers a riveting tale about the clash of modern medicine, civil liberties, and government power at the turn of the last century that resonates powerfully today.

About the Author

Michael Willrich is the author of City of Courts, which won the John H. Dunning Prize awarded by the American Historical Association for the best book on any aspect of U.S. history, and the William Nelson Cromwell Prize awarded by the American Society for Legal History. Currently an associate professor of history at Brandeis University, he worked for several years as a journalist in Washington, D.C., writing for the Washington Monthly, City Paper, the New Republic, and other magazines.

Table of Contents

Preface

Chapter 1. An Introduction

Chapter 2. From the Ideology of the Township to the Gospel of Germs

Chapter 3. The Constitutional Foundations of Health and Prosperity

Chapter 4. The Pox of Liberty

Chapter 5. The Palliative Effects of Property Rights

Chapter 6. Empire, Federalism, and the Surprising Fall of Yellow Fever

Chapter 7. Concluding Remarks

Notes

Index

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 1 comment:

Ashley Bowen, July 11, 2011 (view all comments by Ashley Bowen)
I simply loved this book. Willrich does an incredible job blending legal, public health, and cultural history. He manages to be critical of the Progressive movement without sounding anti-reform or anti-progress. In particular, I appreciated the way he talked about the relationship between the post-Civil War society and smallpox vaccination as a social, rather than solely medical, issue. The information about how the US used vaccination as a tool of empire/war was also new to me and Willrich's insights are very thought provoking. I cannot tell you how often I wrote a "!" in the margin or flipped to the back to write a note to myself.

The book is incredibly well researched and organized. Although there were a lot of names and places to keep up with, I never found myself (too) confused or lost. I cannot recommend this book enough to someone who wants to learn more about public health's early days, the early anti-vaccine movement, or the Progressive era. It is not the quickest read, but it is well worth your time.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(2 of 2 readers found this comment helpful)

Product Details

ISBN:
9781594202865
Subtitle:
How the Constitution Left Americans Rich, Free, and Prone to Infection
Author:
Willrich, Michael
Author:
Troesken, Werner
Publisher:
University Of Chicago Press
Subject:
United States - 20th Century
Subject:
History, 20th Century - United States
Subject:
History, 19th Century - United States
Subject:
Forensic Medicine
Subject:
US History-19th Century
Subject:
US History - 20th Century
Subject:
Economic History
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Hardcover
Series:
Markets and Governments in Economic History
Publication Date:
20150525
Binding:
Hardback
Grade Level:
from 12
Language:
English
Illustrations:
28 halftones, 7 tables
Pages:
256
Dimensions:
9 x 6 in
Age Level:
17-17

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Related Subjects

Health and Self-Help » Health and Medicine » History of Medicine
Health and Self-Help » Health and Medicine » Medical Specialties
History and Social Science » US History » 19th Century
History and Social Science » US History » 20th Century » General

Pox: An American History Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$7.95 In Stock
Product details 256 pages Penguin Press - English 9781594202865 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Today's controversies over vaccinations pale beside the pitched battles fought at the turn of the 20th century, to judge by this probing work. Historian Willrich (City of Courts) revisits the smallpox epidemic that ravaged the United States from 1898 to 1904 and sparked a showdown between the burgeoning Progressive-era regulatory regime and Americans fearful of the new Leviathan state and the specter of 'state medicine.' Anxious to stamp out the contagion, public health officials in the South quarantined African-Americans in detention camps if they were suspected of carrying the disease and vaccinated others at gunpoint; in New York 'paramilitary vaccination squads' raided immigrant tenements, forcibly inoculating residents and dragging infected children off to pesthouses; their coercive methods sparked occasional riots and lawsuits that helped remake constitutional law. Willrich sees merit on both sides: draconian public health measures saved thousands of lives, but resisters did have legitimate concerns about vaccine safety and side effects, racial targeting and bodily integrity. He does tend to romanticize anti-vaccine activists, whose movement he associates with feminism, free speech, and abolitionism, styling them as 'libertarian radicals' engaging in 'intimate acts of civil disobedience.' Still, his lucid, well-written, empathetic study of a fascinating episode shows why the vaccine issue still pricks the American conscience. Photos. (Apr. 4)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
"Review" by , "Willrich's account of the early days of the American progressive movement couldn't be more instructive or timely...a worthy read." (starred review)
"Review" by , "Willrich melds meticulous research with elegant writing to create a richly- textured social history...at the charged intersection of science, politics, race, and culture...You'll never think the same way again about the now all-but- mechanical ritual of rolling up your shirtsleeve for a vaccine needle."
"Review" by , "...In the highly skilled hands of Michael Willrich, hard cases make great history. We all have much to learn from this excellent book."
"Review" by , "Pox is a scholarly rarity: an important and deeply-researched book that speaks not only to historians, but to any thoughtful reader...he has made a lasting contribution to our understanding of the complex and tangled relationship between the powers and responsibilities of the state and the autonomy of individual men and women."
"Review" by , "In Pox: An American History, Michael Willrich meticulously traces the story of how the smallpox vaccine was pressed into service during a major outbreak."
"Synopsis" by ,
The United States is among the wealthiest nations in the world. But that wealth hasn't translated to a higher life expectancy, an area where the United States still ranks thirty-eighthand#151;behind Cuba, Chile, Costa Rica, and Greece, among many others. Some fault the absence of universal health care or the persistence of social inequalities. Others blame unhealthy lifestyles. But these emphases on present-day behaviors and policies miss a much more fundamental determinant of societal health: the state.

Werner Troesken looks at the history of the United States with a focus on three diseasesand#151;smallpox, typhoid fever, and yellow feverand#151;to show how constitutional rules and provisions that promoted individual liberty and economic prosperity also influenced, for good and for bad, the countryand#8217;s ability to eradicate infectious disease. Ranging from federalism under the Commerce Clause to the Contract Clause and the Fourteenth Amendment, Troesken argues persuasively that many institutions intended to promote desirable political or economic outcomes also hindered the provision of public health. We are unhealthy, in other words, at least in part because our political and legal institutions function well. Offering a compelling new perspective, The Pox of Liberty challenges many traditional claims that infectious diseases are inexorable forces in human history, beyond the control of individual actors or the state, revealing them instead to be the result of public and private choices.

"Synopsis" by ,
The untold story of how America's Progressive-era war on smallpox sparked one of the great civil liberties battles of the twentieth century.

At the turn of the last century, a powerful smallpox epidemic swept the United States from coast to coast. The age-old disease spread swiftly through an increasingly interconnected American landscape: from southern tobacco plantations to the dense immigrant neighborhoods of northern cities to far-flung villages on the edges of the nascent American empire. In Pox, award-winning historian Michael Willrich offers a gripping chronicle of how the nation's continentwide fight against smallpox launched one of the most important civil liberties struggles of the twentieth century.

At the dawn of the activist Progressive era and during a moment of great optimism about modern medicine, the government responded to the deadly epidemic by calling for universal compulsory vaccination. To enforce the law, public health authorities relied on quarantines, pesthouses, and "virus squads"-corps of doctors and club-wielding police. Though these measures eventually contained the disease, they also sparked a wave of popular resistance among Americans who perceived them as a threat to their health and to their rights.

At the time, anti-vaccinationists were often dismissed as misguided cranks, but Willrich argues that they belonged to a wider legacy of American dissent that attended the rise of an increasingly powerful government. While a well-organized anti-vaccination movement sprang up during these years, many Americans resisted in subtler ways-by concealing sick family members or forging immunization certificates. Pox introduces us to memorable characters on both sides of the debate, from Henning Jacobson, a Swedish Lutheran minister whose battle against vaccination went all the way to the Supreme Court, to C. P. Wertenbaker, a federal surgeon who saw himself as a medical missionary combating a deadly-and preventable-disease.

As Willrich suggests, many of the questions first raised by the Progressive-era antivaccination movement are still with us: How far should the government go to protect us from peril? What happens when the interests of public health collide with religious beliefs and personal conscience? In Pox, Willrich delivers a riveting tale about the clash of modern medicine, civil liberties, and government power at the turn of the last century that resonates powerfully today.

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