front cover of China and the Cholera Pandemic
China and the Cholera Pandemic
Restructuring Society under Mao
Xiaoping Fang
University of Pittsburgh Press, 2021
Winner, 2022 Outstanding Academic Title, CHOICE Awards

Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward campaign organized millions of Chinese peasants into communes in a misguided attempt to rapidly collectivize agriculture with disastrous effects. Catastrophic famine lingered as the global cholera pandemic of the early 1960s spread rampantly through the infected waters of southeastern coastal China. Confronted with a political crisis and the seventh global cholera pandemic in recorded history, the communist government committed to social restructuring in order to affirm its legitimacy and prevent transmission of the disease. Focusing on the Wenzhou Prefecture in Zhejiang Province, the area most seriously stricken by cholera at the time, Xiaoping Fang demonstrates how China’s pandemic was far more than a health incident; it became a significant social and political influence during a dramatic transition for the People’s Republic.

China and the Cholera Pandemic reveals how disease control and prevention, executed through the government’s large-scale, clandestine anticholera campaign, were integral components of its restructuring initiatives, aimed at restoring social order. The subsequent rise of an emergency disciplinary health state furthered these aims through quarantine and isolation, which profoundly impacted the social epidemiology of the region, dividing Chinese society and reinforcing hierarchies according to place, gender, and socioeconomic status.

front cover of The Cholera Years
The Cholera Years
The United States in 1832, 1849, and 1866
Charles E. Rosenberg
University of Chicago Press, 1987
Cholera was the classic epidemic disease of the nineteenth century, as the plague had been for the fourteenth. Its defeat was a reflection not only of progress in medical knowledge but of enduring changes in American social thought. Rosenberg has focused his study on New York City, the most highly developed center of this new society. Carefully documented, full of descriptive detail, yet written with an urgent sense of the drama of the epidemic years, this narrative is as absorbing for general audiences as it is for the medical historian. In a new Afterword, Rosenberg discusses changes in historical method and concerns since the original publication of The Cholera Years.

"A major work of interpretation of medical and social thought . . . this volume is also to be commended for its skillful, absorbing presentation of the background and the effects of this dread disease."—I.B. Cohen, New York Times

"The Cholera Years is a masterful analysis of the moral and social interest attached to epidemic disease, providing generally applicable insights into how the connections between social change, changes in knowledge and changes in technical practice may be conceived."—Steven Shapin, Times Literary Supplement

"In a way that is all too rarely done, Rosenberg has skillfully interwoven medical, social, and intellectual history to show how medicine and society interacted and changed during the 19th century. The history of medicine here takes its rightful place in the tapestry of human history."—John B. Blake, Science

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Disease Maps
Epidemics on the Ground
Tom Koch
University of Chicago Press, 2011

In the seventeenth century, a map of the plague suggested a radical idea—that the disease was carried and spread by humans. In the nineteenth century, maps of cholera cases were used to prove its waterborne nature. More recently, maps charting the swine flu pandemic caused worldwide panic and sent shockwaves through the medical community. In Disease Maps, Tom Koch contends that to understand epidemics and their history we need to think about maps of varying scale, from the individual body to shared symptoms evidenced across cities, nations, and the world.  

Disease Maps
begins with a brief review of epidemic mapping today and a detailed example of its power. Koch then traces the early history of medical cartography, including pandemics such as European plague and yellow fever, and the advancements in anatomy, printing, and world atlases that paved the way for their mapping. Moving on to the scourge of the nineteenth century—cholera—Koch considers the many choleras argued into existence by the maps of the day, including a new perspective on John Snow’s science and legacy. Finally, Koch addresses contemporary outbreaks such as AIDS, cancer, and H1N1, and reaches into the future, toward the coming epidemics. Ultimately, Disease Maps redefines conventional medical history with new surgical precision, revealing that only in maps do patterns emerge that allow disease theories to be proposed, hypotheses tested, and treatments advanced.


front cover of Epidemics, Empire, and Environments
Epidemics, Empire, and Environments
Cholera in Madras and Quebec City, 1818–1910
Michael Zeheter
University of Pittsburgh Press, 2015
Throughout the nineteenth century, cholera was a global scourge against human populations. Practitioners had little success in mitigating the symptoms of the disease, and its causes were bitterly disputed. What experts did agree on was that the environment played a crucial role in the sites where outbreaks occurred. In this book, Michael Zeheter offers a probing case study of the environmental changes made to fight cholera in two markedly different British colonies: Madras in India and Quebec City in Canada.
The colonial state in Quebec aimed to emulate British precedent and develop similar institutions that allowed authorities to prevent cholera by imposing quarantines and controlling the disease through comprehensive change to the urban environment and sanitary improvements. In Madras, however, the provincial government sought to exploit the colony for profit and was reluctant to commit its resources to measures against cholera that would alienate the city’s inhabitants. It was only in 1857, after concern rose in Britain over the health of its troops in India, that a civilizing mission of sanitary improvement was begun. As Zeheter shows, complex political and economic factors came to bear on the reshaping of each colony's environment and the urgency placed on disease control.

front cover of Knowledge in the Time of Cholera
Knowledge in the Time of Cholera
The Struggle over American Medicine in the Nineteenth Century
Owen Whooley
University of Chicago Press, 2013
Vomiting. Diarrhea. Dehydration. Death. Confusion. In 1832, the arrival of cholera in the United States created widespread panic throughout the country. For the rest of the century, epidemics swept through American cities and towns like wildfire, killing thousands. Physicians of all stripes offered conflicting answers to the cholera puzzle, ineffectively responding with opiates, bleeding, quarantines, and all manner of remedies, before the identity of the dreaded infection was consolidated under the germ theory of disease some sixty years later.

These cholera outbreaks raised fundamental questions about medical knowledge and its legitimacy, giving fuel to alternative medical sects that used the confusion of the epidemic to challenge both medical orthodoxy and the authority of the still-new American Medical Association. In Knowledge in the Time of Cholera, Owen Whooley tells us the story of those dark days, centering his narrative on rivalries between medical and homeopathic practitioners and bringing to life the battle to control public understanding of disease, professional power, and democratic governance in nineteenth-century America.

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Raw Material
Producing Pathology in Victorian Culture
Erin O'Connor
Duke University Press, 2000
Raw Material analyzes how Victorians used the pathology of disease to express deep-seated anxieties about a rapidly industrializing England’s relationship to the material world. Drawing on medicine, literature, political economy, sociology, anthropology, and popular advertising, Erin O’Connor explores “the industrial logic of disease,” the dynamic that coupled pathology and production in Victorian thinking about cultural processes in general, and about disease in particular.
O’Connor focuses on how four particularly troubling physical conditions were represented in a variety of literature. She begins by exploring how Asiatic cholera, which reached epidemic proportions on four separate occasions between 1832 and 1865, was thought to represent the dangers of cultural contamination and dissolution. The next two chapters concentrate on the problems breast cancer and amputation posed for understanding gender. After discussing how breast cancer was believed to be caused by the female body’s intolerance to urban life, O'Connor turns to men’s bodies, examining how new prosthetic technology allowed dismembered soldiers and industrial workers to reconstruct themselves as productive members of society. The final chapter explores how freak shows displayed gross deformity as the stuff of a new and improved individuality. Complicating an understanding of the Victorian body as both a stable and stabilizing structure, she elaborates how Victorians used disease as a messy, often strategically unintelligible way of articulating the uncertainties of chaotic change. Over the course of the century, O’Connor shows, the disfiguring process of disease became a way of symbolically transfiguring the self. While cholera, cancer, limb loss, and deformity incapacitated and even killed people, their dramatic symptoms provided opportunities for imaginatively adapting to a world where it was increasingly difficult to determine not only what it meant to be human but also what it meant to be alive.
Raw Material will interest an audience of students and scholars of Victorian literature, cultural history, and the history of medicine.

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Snow on Cholera
Being a Reprint of Two Papers. With a Biographical Memoir by B. W. Richardson and Introduction by Wade Hampton Frost
John Snow
Harvard University Press

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