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Hello, my name is Valorie. I have a Master's Degree in History and a license to teach-- I have been both university professor and public school teacher. Currently, I am a middle school social studies teacher. I love horror movies and spooky things. Every day is Halloween. I am also a passionate book blogger.

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Book Review: 23:27 by H.L. Roberts

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Book Review: The Cholera Years: The United States in 1832, 1849, and 1866 by Charles E. Rosenberg

Title: The Cholera Years: The United States in 1832, 1849, and 1866
Author: Charles E. Rosenberg
Genre: Nonfiction - History
Finished: September 25, 2009

In the Republic era of America, people were assaulted daily by their own visions of success, failure, the expectations and weaknesses of a still developing concept of democracy, poverty, and illness. One such illness, Cholera, infected America three times during this period: 1832, 1849, and 1866. In America, "Cholera represented a constant and randomly reoccurring stimulus against which the varying reactions and systems of Americans could be judged" and it caused gradual changes in social attitudes, government, religious thought, and medicine as people tried to understand and cope with the disease. Historians have recently given little attention to defining and then writing about the social changes brought about by cholera, both as a process and its final result. It is part of history's recent interest in social aspects such as family and school, which medicine is a part of because the two are linked by everyday life concerns.

The Cholera Years is an interesting and easy to read the book. One of its strengths lies in its readability and in how it engages the reader through primary sources. Historical books that tell stories and relate true life accounts and words are more interesting than those that simply move from one fact to the next. Also, Rosenberg is very organized in his presentation of information. The sections, chopped up by cholera year, follow the same patterns as far as how information is addressed. As a result, though we are reading from one year to the next, the progressions of society and thought are easy to follow and connect together. It actually made more sense this way than if Rosenberg had approached the book topically, which would have jumped around and only confused. Unfortunately, as a weakness, Rosenberg is very repetitive. A lot of information and points are stressed repeatedly throughout the book, and in that way, it sort of loses focus a few times. Rosenberg gives an annotated bibliography at the end of his book, which lists aids, manuscripts, public documents, newspapers, printed medical documents, other printed material, and secondary sources consulted. He does make a note in his section on printed material other than medical literature that he has not listed all the documents consulted because they are too numerous, but instead listed those that are most interesting or relevant, which he also does with newspapers. The primary sources include such documents as hospital reports, newspapers, Board of Health and committee minutes, and religious sermons. As such, we are provided with a lot of "from the mouth" accounts of cholera to support the progressions in thought and practice that Rosenberg takes us through from one outbreak to the next. This book fits well into the genre of medical history, as well as cultural history because Cholera had a direct and distinct impact on life, the concept of a person, social equality, and medical care. You won't get the sort of copious gory details that medical history books are known for, which is a shame, but you will certainly come out of reading the book understanding a bit more how America evolved into the country it is now, and how something like one disease could shape a nation.

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