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.
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Sarah Tracy
Assistant Professor of Honors and History of Medicine
Honors College