Friday, January 6, 2012: 9:50 AM
Chicago Ballroom A (Chicago Marriott Downtown)
The story of early national American medical culture has centered either on domestic developments or Americans’ relations to European metropoles like London, Edinburgh or Paris. That story becomes much more complex when we look to epidemiological and social phenomena in the broader Atlantic world. Through the persistent problem of yellow fever (and related diseases) in tropical climes as well as increasing movements of people and ideas between North America and the Caribbean, numerous inhabitants of the new nation cultivated networks and collaborations with international actors who likewise derived their knowledge from firsthand experience with those diseases. These networks came to have a significant impact on the ways in which many American medical writers identified themselves culturally in the scientific and medical communities of the Atlantic world. What came to characterize American medicine in the era of yellow fever was not a nascent nationalist ethos but, rather, a creole complex – an identity and sets of ideas shaped by Americans’ negotiations with an international web of medical writers and observes outside of the US and outside of Europe.
My work traces this development through a close study of the emergence, character, practices and expansion of the New York-based journal the Medical Repository. In contrast to prior scholarship, my work treats it as a transnational enterprise that grew out of the collaboration of Americans and peripheral actors in the Atlantic world. Despite cultural and political differences, editors and contributors collectively used the publication for the promotion of ideas and practices by those who claimed firsthand experience with diseases in settings outside of Europe. They envisioned it as a counterweight to what they saw as the lingering hegemony of “Old World” disease explanatory models and preventative measures that continued to inform official responses to the new international disease threats of their time.