tHE cHOLERA yEARS

Topics: Cholera, Epidemiology, Infectious disease Pages: 3 (964 words) Published: March 5, 2014
‘The Cholera Years’ by Charles E. Rosenberg is a detailed work on the three Cholera epidemics that hit the United States in 1832, 1849 and 1866. Rosenberg’s aim is to describe how when looking at the three epidemics we can see three completely different Americas. The different reactions and attitudes towards the disease illustrate the transition from a theological society who saw cholera as divine retribution upon the filthy and immoral to a society where the disease was understood in medical terms with emphasis on the necessity of sanitation and health care. This is a society more recognisable today. Rosenberg describes each epidemic in detail and discusses the relevance of religious values, the medical profession and different theories of disease in shaping responses to the epidemics. He does in a very interesting way; his writing is engaging and well written in a way that makes it extremely easy to follow. It provides a chronological account of the epidemics allowing for an easy comparison between attitudes in 1832, 1849 and 1866. Religious leaders were motivated by the 1832 epidemic to encourage fasting and repentance, viewing the disease as God’s punishment of the country’s sinners. When the second epidemic arrived in 1849, there was talk of the problems of sanitation and the role it played in the cause of cholera, however, still, little was done to clean up the streets and people’s homes. Those who lived in filthy conditions were simply considered to be sinners facing God’s wrath. The final epidemic in 1866 demonstrated a completely transformed view of the disease from those of 1832. The metropolitan Board of Health was created and practical advice for prevention and treatment was fed to the public. Rosenberg’s aim in ‘The Cholera Years’ is not to describe cholera as a disease but to demonstrate how the changing explanations and responses to the same disease at different periods in history reveal significant shifts in social, moral, medical and political...
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