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In this engaging, creative history, Fenn (Natives and Newcomers) addresses an understudied aspect of the American Revolution: the intimate connection between smallpox and the war. Closed-in soldiers' quarters and jails, as well as the travel demands of fighting, led to the outbreak of smallpox in 1775. George Washington ended an outbreak in the north by inoculating American soldiers (the colonists had a weaker immune system against smallpox than the British). Indeed, Fenn makes a plausible case that without Washington's efforts, the colonists might have lost the war. Despite the future president's success at "outflanking the enemy" of smallpox, however, the disease spread on the Southern front, where there was "chaos, connections, and a steady stream of victims." Even as the war ended, the increased contact between populations spread the disease as far as Mexico and the Pacific Northwest. The outbreak eventually killed an estimated 125,000 North Americans more than five times the number of colonial soldiers who died (to her credit, Fenn admits that these numbers are inexact). Along the way, Fenn, who teaches history at George Washington University, recounts the fate of many blacks freed under a British "emancipation proclamation" of sorts; promised their freedom if they fought for the British, several thousand ex-slaves perished from smallpox. She also traces the disease's effect on the North American balance of power by devastating some Native American tribes in the 1780s. Long after the war, whites kept Native Americans passive with explicit threats of infection. Fenn has placed smallpox on the historical map and shown how intercultural contact can have dire bacterial consequences.38 b&w illus. not seen by PW.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
Many books have been written about smallpox, but few have this volume's scholarly focus. Fenn (history, George Washington Univ.) relies heavily on primary documents to illustrate the disease's devastating impact on the political and military history of North America during the Revolutionary War. Excerpts from diaries, letters, presidential papers, and church and burial records provide first-hand accounts of the spread of this disease. The result is an extensive discussion of the role of smallpox in the Colonial era, but the book's main strength is in the detailed analysis of smallpox among Native Americans, from Mexico to Canada. Fenn's study of the historical horrors of this devastating disease nicely complements Jonathan Tucker's Scourge (LJ 8/15/01), which considers what the future may be like if smallpox returns. Highly recommended for academic and medical libraries. Tina Neville, Univ. of South Florida at St. Petersburg Lib.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
What a fantastic single-vision narrative. This text adds an interesting new dimension to an entire time period. Exceptional research on individual experiences.Published on July 19 2004 by Jen Grover
This is an excellent work. It bogs down a bit in the second half but only for 30 or so pages as the author gets into the detail of some purported statistical analysis, information... Read morePublished on Nov. 4 2003 by Michael E. Fitzgerald
This moment in American history is not the first time that Americans have debated protection from Smallpox. Ms. Read morePublished on Sept. 4 2002
More scholarly than "entertaining" in tone, this book traces smallpox epidemics and their influence upon the progress of war, settlement, and "who wins" in the race for political... Read morePublished on June 1 2002 by K. Nettles
The great smallpox epidemic of 1775-82 is covered in a survey which reveals not only the spread of the disease, but how it made an impact on the Revolutionary War's outcome and how... Read morePublished on April 11 2002 by Midwest Book Review
Lots of people got smallpox, and many of them died. OK, now you do not need to read this dull book.Published on Feb. 28 2002
Germ warfare isn't a new idea to us. This book, while clearly stating the impact of smallpox during American's war for independence, also gives us a deeper understanding of how... Read morePublished on Feb. 2 2002
Smallpox usually isn't near the top of anyone's favorite book subject list, but recent terrorist events have made all of us aware of the need to reacquaint ourselves with diseases... Read morePublished on Jan. 7 2002 by Bill Shepherd
Elizabeth A. Fenn's Pox Americana (The Great Smallpox Epidemic of 1775-82) is an interesting book that traces the course of this horrendous pox as it veers bloodily throughout the... Read morePublished on Dec 2 2001 by Ricky Hunter