Books That Inspire 2004

The Cholera Years: The United States in 1832, 1849, and 1866
Charles Rosenberg

When I started graduate school in the history and sociology of science, I knew that there was one specialty that I wanted to avoid: the history of medicine. Four years as an undergraduate surrounded by cut-throat pre-meds left me with no desire to study anything approaching medicine. When I read The Cholera Years, however, I changed my mind. Charles Rosenberg’s ability to use disease as a lens into nineteenth century social thought, religious values, and medical practice encouraged me to see disease and medical practice in an entirely new light. The Cholera Years also read like a novel. I saw that it was possible to write an academic book that was compelling to a general audience without sacrificing its meaning for historians. In my research and in my teaching, I try to remind my audience that disease means more than getting sick; in the nineteenth century, epidemic disease could be an indication of social and moral standing, an obstacle to trade, a rallying cry for a growing public health movement, and a condition that often would bring out the best and worst of human nature. My fascination with the history of disease began with The Cholera Years.
Sarah Tracy
Assistant Professor of Honors and History of Medicine
Honors College