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Epidemics in America

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Epidemics in America

Since the proclamation by John Winthrop, the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, that America should view herself as a "city upon a hill", Americans have strived to create a utopian society (Brinkley, 40). Winthrop viewed America as God's country, a place where the troubles of Europe and the rest of the world would not be repeated. This ideal is still valued by American society, yet it has prevented Americans from accepting the notion that an epidemic could strike their own country. Epidemics in the Modern World by Joann P. Krieg examines American society's reaction to the outbreak of epidemics in this country. Krieg threads the theme of American Romanticism throughout her work, as she explores the reactions of politicians, literary figures, and society in general to the outbreak of disease. Krieg also gives some biological information on the diseases that have haunted the American utopia. While this potpourri of information creates a valuable source for one studying the social effects of disease, its extensive discussion on literary topics becomes long-winded and irrelevant.

Krieg explores the outbreak of five American epidemics: smallpox, cholera, yellow fever, TB, and AIDS. While reactions to each were different, Krieg shows that American Romanticism, the notion that "it couldn't happen to us", was prevalent in each of society's reactions to these epidemics. American Romanticism limited the swiftness to which the government, as well as the people, reacted to the outbreak of epidemics. Government often did not acknowledge the outbreak of an epidemic in America because it would blemish the image of the "city upon a hill". Even if they did acknowledge an epidemic, the government often quarantined ports to limit the influx of what was surely a foreign disease. Krieg adeptly gives historical perspective to each of the...

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