The cholera years by Charles Rosenberg

The cholera years by Charles Rosenberg – the United States in 1832, 1849, and 1866 – is a book I read for my studies and I’m so happy I had to. First of all, I wasn’t aware that cholera was such a problem in US in the 19th century. These three pandemics are analysed in a chronological way, it’s easier to compare the differences in approaches and how the views evolved and changed in a short time, less than 35 years.

The cholera years by Charles Rosenberg

In London there were pandemics in 1832 and 1849 and everybody who saw a documentary or read a book about them knows about John Snow. I recommend his biography by Sandra Hempel, it’s fascinating. His work on cholera, alongside findings made by other doctors improved the knowledge so much that by 1866 people knew how the disease was transmitted.

The author, in this rather short book, looks at so many different aspects, from religious perspective and reactions, to scientific approaches, and to government-authorities action in dealing with risks of cholera. The book is old, published for the first time in 1968, so it is both one of the classics when it comes to medical history, but also it is a good book, lovely written, with his views coming through nicely and engagingly.

The book has no data or graphs or maps, but it is a wonderful description and analysis of what happened in these three pandemics. I think the book would be interesting and enjoyable for everybody, not just for those who study cholera or pandemics. I highly recommend it.

The cholera years by Charles Rosenberg

Details about the picture: –
My rating: 5/5 Stars
Would I recommend it: YES!
Published by: University of Chicago Press
Year it was published: 1987 (first published in 1968)
Format: Paperback
Genre(s): History – American
Pages: 276

About the author: Charles Ernest Rosenberg was born in 1936. He is an American historian of medicine. He is Professor of the History of Science and Medicine and the Ernest E. Monrad Professor in the Social Sciences at Harvard University.
Website & Social Media Links: –

5 thoughts on “The cholera years by Charles Rosenberg”

  • Thanks for the info on the John Snow book. That 1849 outbreak hit near the area where my second great grandparents lived (not all that far from the Broad Street Pump and I’m not sure but think it may have influenced their decision to emigrate a few years later. And in general, it’s fascinating.

    • If you are coming to London again, you should go to see the pump in Soho. It has a plaque with some details and, of course, there is a John Snow pub near it, very busy though, we didn’t find a table. 🙂
      Might have influenced them, as it was very scary, and it’s understandable why people wanted something new, hoping for more security too.

  • It’s amazing just how many pandemics there have been worldwide throughout history. I guess a good thing to come out of Covid is that we’ve all become more knowledgeable about them! It’s nice that even older books like this can still be relevant.
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    • This is one of the most relevant books when it comes to the history of medicine, this is why I had to read it. That being said, I think it’s so well presented and engaging that it would appeal to the non-historian too. I had lower expectations, so it was a very nice surprise.

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