cover of book

The Province of Affliction: Illness and the Making of Early New England
by Ben Mutschler
University of Chicago Press, 2020
eISBN: 978-0-226-71456-1 | Cloth: 978-0-226-71442-4
Library of Congress Classification RA446.5.N48M87 2020
Dewey Decimal Classification 362.10974

How do we balance individual and collective responsibility for illness? This question, which continues to resonate today, was especially pressing in colonial America, where episodic bouts of sickness were pervasive, chronic ails common, and epidemics all too familiar.

​In The Province of Affliction, Ben Mutschler explores the surprising roles that illness played in shaping the foundations of New England society and government from the late seventeenth century through the early nineteenth century. Considered healthier than residents in many other regions of early America, and yet still riddled with disease, New Englanders grappled steadily with what could be expected of the sick and what allowances made to them and their providers.  Mutschler integrates the history of disease into the narrative of early American cultural and political development, illuminating the fragility of autonomy, individualism, and advancement in this period. Each sickness in early New England created its own web of interdependent social relations that could both enable survival and set off a long bureaucratic struggle to determine responsibility for the misfortune.  From families and households to townships, colonies, and states, illness both defined and strained the institutions of the day, bringing people together in the face of calamity, yet also driving them apart when the cost of persevering grew overwhelming. In the process, domestic turmoil circulated through the social and political world to permeate the very bedrock of early American civic life.

See other books on: Colonial Period (1600-1775) | Diseases | Illness | New England | Public health
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