Disease and Discrimination in Colonial Atlantic America

Reviewed by Michelle Ziegler Dale Hutchinson. Disease and Discrimination: Poverty and Pestilence in Colonial Atlantic America. University of Florida Press, 2016. $85 Dale Hutchinson's latest book fits into a recent trend of a more critical analysis of the role disease played in the demographic collapse of Native Americans in the Colonial period. After spending most of... Continue Reading →

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Dogs as Plague Sentinels and Vectors

I've been a little obsessed with thinking about dogs and the plague lately. Dogs are often overlooked in historic plague discussions because they usually survive plague and dog-specific fleas are not associated with transmitting plague. Yet, dogs can host many of the fleas common among rodents and others that do transmit the plague including the... Continue Reading →

Beyond Germs: Native Depopulation in North America

Beyond Germs: Native Depopulation in North America. Edited by Catherine Cameron, Paul Kelton and Alan Swedlund. University of Arizona Press, 2015. With the number of emerging infectious diseases climbing and new revelations about plague's past, this book is a timely caution to the rhetoric surrounding so-called virgin soil epidemics. This book is the publication of... Continue Reading →

Autumn Reading

While autumn is not officially over yet, December always seems like winter to me so here is my reading review from autumn. This season I'm introducing a book review rating system. On my scale, an average book would get three scopes; a good book, four; and only the extraordinary book gets five scopes. I probably... Continue Reading →

Challenging Virgin Soil Epidemic Assumptions 

The depopulation of Native Americans during the 16th to 18th centuries, one result of the 'Columbian Exchange', has been held up as the ultimate example of virgin soil epidemics. The emphasis put on the 'virginity' of the native population, bordering on biological determinism, has absolved the colonial powers of a multitude of sins. Some archaeologists... Continue Reading →

Multi-strain Plague Blooms Over Landscapes

Two articles have come to my attention over the couple months that argue strongly for an environmental role in plague epidemics/epizootics over clonal expansion. Taken together these studies suggest that multiple strains of Yersinia pestis percolate out of multiple reservoirs at the same time. The strongest support comes from Madagascar where ten MLVA defined strains from... Continue Reading →

Personal ties to Cholera, 1833

What a strange feeling looking at this map of the 1832 cholera pandemic.  It looks like a blotchy bruise on the country. A little surprise at how restricted the pandemic was in America. As it turns out this map is incomplete, ending in October 1832;  cholera eventually traveled down the Mississippi to reach New Orleans... Continue Reading →

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