The Deadly Truth: A History of Disease in America

By Gerald N. Grob | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 4
The Promise of
Enlightened Health

As settlers surmounted the difficulties encountered in moving to a new environment, they found that morbidity and mortality rates began to decline. Appearances, however, were deceiving; the health advantages enjoyed by colonial Americans proved transitory. Slowly but surely the increase in population and economic growth during the eighteenth century created conditions conducive to a wider dissemination of those infectious diseases that played such an important role in European mortality. Consequently, the seemingly good health characteristic of many colonies once the seasoning stage had passed slowly but surely gave way to a somewhat less favorable disease environment. To be sure, most colonies had lower morbidity and mortality rates than western Europe (including England). Despite population growth, the rural character of colonial America provided quite different environmental conditions, and the pattern of infectious diseases followed a somewhat dissimilar course. Yet the economic, environmental, and demographic changes that were transforming the lives of colonial Americans were also narrowing the magnitude of these differences. Indeed, the gains in health and life expectancy that occurred in many of the colonies in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries slowly ground to a halt and would begin to be reversed after 1800.

After the initial stage of settlement, population growth in the American colonies accelerated rapidly. Between 1700 and 1770 there was a

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The Deadly Truth: A History of Disease in America
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Prologue 1
  • Chapter 1 - The Pre-Columbians 7
  • Chapter 2 - New Diseases in the Americas 26
  • Chapter 3 - Colonics of Sickness 48
  • Chapter 4 - The Promise of Enlightened Health 70
  • Chapter 5 - Threats to Urban Health 96
  • Chapter 6 - Expanding America, Declining Health 121
  • Chapter 7 - Threats of Industry 153
  • Chapter 8 - Stopping the Spread of Infection 180
  • Chapter 9 - The Discovery of Chronic Illness 217
  • Chapter 10 - No Final Victory 243
  • Notes 277
  • Index 339
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