Posts Tagged ‘ american history ’

Read Excerpts from “The Province of Affliction” by Ben Mutschler

August 31, 2020

The following are two excerpts from Ben Mutschler’s recent publication, The Province of Affliction: Illness and the Making of Early New England.  The book explores the place of illness in everyday life—the ways in which it shaped families and households and became bound up in governance at all levels. The passages below draw from the introduction to a chapter on smallpox and the politics of contagion, followed by a small portion of a case study based on the diary of Ashley Bowen.  The sailor, ship rigger, painter, poet, husband, and father chronicled the ravages of smallpox as it burned through his town of Marblehead, Massachusetts in 1773—an event at once terrifying and all-too-common in early New England. Perhaps no other affliction in eighteenth-century New England received the attention given to smallpox. Even the most laconic of diarists noted its presence and charted its approach; others devoted entire journals to its rages. Letters written from infected areas to relatives, friends, and business partners survive despite authors’ pleas to burn such material lest the virulent distemper spread further. Newspapers reported on outbreaks throughout the Atlantic world. Chronologies of significant events compiled at the end of almanacs memorialized serious epidemics. Legislative records reveal extensive . . .

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