Friday, January 11, 2002

Pox Americana: Addressing the Strategic and Historical Role of Small Pox During the American War for Independence

Chestertown, MD, January 10, 2002 — The C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience at Washington College presents POX AMERICA: THE GREAT SMALL POX EPIDEMIC OF 1775-1782, a lecture by Professor Elizabeth Anne Fenn of George Washington University, on Wednesday, February 6, 2002 at 7:30 p.m. in the College's Hynson Lounge. The event is free and the public is invited to attend.
Professor Fenn's newly published book "Pox Americana" discusses an oft-overlooked aspect of the American Revolution, one that oddly parallels our own contemporary concerns about bio-terrorism: the connection between the scourge of smallpox and the conduct and outcome of the war. The living conditions of soldiers during the Revolution lead to an outbreak of smallpox in 1775, and George Washington ended an outbreak in the North by inoculating American soldiers, perhaps, according to Fenn preventing an early defeat by the British who had increased immunity to smallpox from more frequent European outbreaks. Despite General Washington's efforts, the disease spread in the South, and, as the war ended, increased contact between populations spread the disease as far as Mexico and the Pacific Northwest.
Fenn traces the disease's effect on the North American balance of power in the late 18th Century—the strategic, cultural and historical consequences of disease that might have helped to pave the way for the United States' hegemony over North America. Fenn brings detail to the subject through diaries, letters, presidential papers, and church and burial records that document first-hand the spread of the disease.
The C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience at Washington College opened in Fall 2001 to encourage the broad study of American history and culture and the ways we give daily new meaning to what George Washington called "the great experiment." In keeping with the special history and character of Washington College, the Center focuses on the nation's founding moment, ideals and experiences by highlighting contemporary scholarship and research in these areas. For more information, call 410-810-7156.

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