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Rotting Face: Smallpox and the American Indianby Roland Robertson
Synopses & Reviews
Recent cases of anthrax in the United States have generated much discussion about the threat Americans may face from chemical and biological terrorist attacks. Some experts believe other biological agents pose far greater threats than anthrax. Smallpox is one of these.<P>Smallpox is a contagious virus with a high mortality rate. But in 1980, after a thirteen-year campaign, the World Health Organization officially declared the disease eradicated. Smallpox vaccinations haven't been given to the general population in the United States since 1972.<P>In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, American Indians called smallpox "Rotting Face, "a plague so terrible parents sometimes killed their children to save them from the agony.<P>R. G. Robertson tells the story of America's last great smallpox epidemic. The smallpox outbreak of 1837-1838 on the Northern Plains, forever changed the political and social structure of the tribes in that region. Before it ran out of human fuel, Rotting Face claimed an estimated 20,000 natives, doing more damage to the tribes in one year than all the military expeditions sent against the American Indian before or after.<P>Robertson details the history of smallpox and the profound impact the disease had in Europe, Asia and other regions of the Americas, where it killed or maimed rich and poor, royalty and peasant alike. It also gives the reader a chilling look at what can happen when the disease attacks a "virgin population" with little immunity — like modern-day America.<P>Robertson's gripping account also dispels some popular myths about the role of early-day whites in the spread of this devastating disease.
Book News Annotation:
Independent scholar Robertson discusses the effects of smallpox on the American Indians, beginning with the introduction of the disease to the New World by Spanish conquistadors and continuing through the epidemics of the 18th and 19th centuries. He also examines the central role that the fur trade played in spreading the disease, which culminated in the epidemic of 1837-38.
Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Distributed by the University of Nebraska Press for Caxton Press
The smallpox epidemic of 1837-1838 forever changed the tribes of the Northern Plains. Before it ran out of human fuel, the disease claimed twenty thousand souls. R. G. Robertson tells the story of this deadly virus with modern implications.
About the Author
R.G. Robertson served as a Marine Corps officer in Vietnam, then earned an MBA from the University of Michigan. His other books include Idaho Echoes in Time and Competitive Struggle: America's Western Fur Trading Posts.
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Health and Self-Help » Health and Medicine » History of Medicine