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Quarantine!

Paperback
, 280 pages

34 b&w illus.

ISBN:
9780801861802
April 1999
$25.00

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Quarantine!

East European Jewish Immigrants and the New York City Epidemics of 1892

In Quarantine! Howard Markel traces the course of the typhus and cholera epidemics that swept through New York City in 1892. The story is told from the point of view of those involved—the public health doctors who diagnosed and treated the victims, the newspaper reporters who covered the stories, the government officials who established and enforced policy, and, most importantly, the immigrants themselves. Drawing on rarely cited stories from the Yiddish American press, immigrant diaries and letters, and official accounts, Markel follows the immigrants on their journey from a squalid and precarious existence in Russia's Pale of Settlement, to their passage in steerage, to New York's Lower East Side, to the city's quarantine islands. At a time of renewed anti-immigrant sentiment and newly emerging infectious diseases, Quarantine! provides a historical context for considering some of the significant problems that face American society today.

Howard Markel is an associate professor of pediatrics and communicable diseases, and Director of the Historical Center for the Health Sciences at the University of Michigan Medical School.

"Skillfully explores the social, cultural, medical, and political issues surrounding the quarantine of East European Jewish immigrants during the typhus and cholera epidemics in 1892 New York."

" Insightful... fine and well-written."

" Quarantine! unites the best of the two worlds of social history and clinical history in a narrative style so personal and at times gripping that a reader forgets that the book is meant primarily to be a scholarly text... Markel is as much spinning a complex yarn as he is writing a scrupulously researched chronicle."

"Beautifully written and thoroughly researched... This is a fine piece of history with a timely and thoughtful message; it deserves a wide readership among both health care professionals and professional historians."

"One of the major strengths of the book is the balance between the social construction of disease and the biological realities of illness... Quarantine! therefore provides an important cautionary tale not only for historians, but also for medical professionals who need to deal with modern epidemics in a rational and humane manner."

"With vivid brush strokes Markel sketches in many of the colorful personalities who figured in his tale... Quarantine! is a fascinating and moving account."

"A remarkable book, uniting the best of the two worlds of social history and clinical history and yet so gripping in narrative style that it kept me fascinated until the very end. Markel is to be congratulated on his ability to write engagingly for a wide variety of readers, while making a major scholarly contribution to the field that continues to be enriched by this work and his example."

"Markel does the best job I have seen of depicting the experience of the quarantined—as well as explaining something of the political and etiological/prophylactic debates that framed and legitimated the quarantine itself. Along the way he makes substantive contributions to Jewish history, urban history, and public health history."