The Politics of Disease

An American History from Columbus to Covid


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SKU: 9781476691107 Categories: , , ,

About the Book

Even a pandemic is subject to politics. Disease has always been a catalyst for change, influencing wars, the rise and fall of leaders, economics, religion, art, and, most certainly, people’s lives. Disease, as Covid demonstrates, can be politicized as well. While the pandemic that erupted in 2019 may be the most politicized in American history, it is far from the only one. Indeed, disease has afflicted the United States since the beginning, and it has been exploited by politicians, the media, and others to further their agendas. Parties have defined disease, and disease has defined political parties.
From the 16th century to the present, this work traces the interactions of disease and politics in the United States. Major pandemics, local outbreaks, and even presidential illnesses are all examined to see how political parties have seized upon their origins, spread, and treatment to promote their own ideologies. Immigration, civil rights, gender, war, economics, public health, modernization, and elections are all discussed in relation to the outbreaks. The book demonstrates how disease helped secure independence, led to the writing of the Constitution, brought America into the War of 1812 and the Spanish–American War, led to limits on immigration, kept the United States out of the League of Nations, led to women voting, produced two political parties—and more.

About the Author(s)

David R. Petriello teaches history at Caldwell University in Caldwell, New Jersey. He specializes in disease and its impact on history. He has previously written books on military history, Chinese history, and the role of disease in history.

Bibliographic Details

David R. Petriello
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 247
Bibliographic Info: notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2023
pISBN: 978-1-4766-9110-7
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4865-1
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

I. Disease and the Conquest of the Americas 5
II. Inoculation Intrigue 15
III. A Nation Forged in Gout 27
IV. Mosquitos and the Emergence of Political Parties 36
V. Buffalo Fever and the ­Anti-War Movement 48
VI. “A people so well fed and so clean”: Cholera and Jacksonian Politics 56
VII. Presidential Poxes 64
VIII. “The Wretched Refuse”: Disease and ­19th-Century Immigration Debates 71
IX. Rashes and Reforms 91
X. The Pox of Progressivism: Vaccinations 104
XI. The Pox of Progressivism: Culling the Herd 116
XII. Disease and the Democratic Process 137
XIII. Immigration and Illness in the 20th Century 156
XIV. The AIDS Epidemic? 162
XV. Moon Fever 171
XVI. The “Wuhan” Virus 183

Conclusion 206
Chapter Notes 211
Bibliography 233
Index 237