munchkindad's review against another edition

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informative medium-paced

3.5

intoxicating_reads's review against another edition

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4.0

I just finished reading a book about the Salem with trials and I won this book as a first reads giveaway. It worked perfectly to pick up where my other book left off and to see what was going on in MA following the trials. One of the main individuals in this book is Cotton Mather and I think that with the additional background about his role in the witch trials really helped to understand what he was doing and how he was treated. However, even without knowing about the witch trials, this book was very detailed and informative. It nicely weaved several three different topics: inoculation, the american revolution and freedom of the press together showing how you can never really know how your actions will shape the fate of the future.

bethh609's review against another edition

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4.0

This was an excellent book! Great research was used to construct a rounded narrative that explicated a complex time line with ease and gave life to familiar historical figures. I highly recommend this book.

ellsbeth's review against another edition

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4.0

This is a fascinating book about a pivotal smallpox epidemic in pre-Revolutionary Boston. It delves into this multi-faceted history, explaining the impact of this even on the development of immunizations, the freedom of the press and the 1st amendment, the lead up to the American Revolution, and more. The history seems very relevant to current events. I was happy to learn more about Cotton Mather, Benjamin Franklin, and the significant contributions of James Franklin.

The audio narrator, Bob Sour, lends an authoritative voice to the story that kept my interest. The only drawback I had in listening to this book was that I tried to spread it out. In doing so, I found myself losing track of the various players and events of the story. I suggest a more compact listen to more easily keep track of the various threads. I’ll be recommending this book to others and I look forward to reading more from Stephen Coss. Note: I received a free copy of this book from the LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program.

darwinstoffees's review against another edition

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4.0

The first half was extremely dry and in modern non-fiction I've come to expect a bit more or the non-fiction. That said the second half when it became more about James Franklin and Benjamin and the advent of printing and the freedom of press it became much better. That said I was actually a bit more interested in the story of Boylston and Inoculation. Overall it's a really great history of the start of America becoming separated from England and the planting of seeds of freedom and revolution, but I think that leaves Boylston and the patients of inoculation a little shorted.

readclever's review against another edition

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5.0

If you're unaware of Boston's history and legacy of helping to seed the American Revolution, the book is great. A lot of background on the players, ranging from Cotton Mathers to the Franklins to Elisha Cook's pursuit of an independent colony. All of this political intrigue across a small pox epidemic that would change how the world viewed the illness. While Dr. Boylston performs inoculations, legally and illegally, the press and government wage war in a messy triangle that's nearly impossible to untangle at certain parts.

Coss offers not just many, many primary source information but the connections in a small town of only 13,000. He spends a lot of time making sure readers understand every level of interplay without preaching. For a first book, this is a pretty high standard to beat on his next. What is more interesting is that fact his research offers so much history that schools never teach, like the smallpox epidemics outside the Native American community, and how it could shut or revive a contested government in the blink of an eye.

The most surprising information, for me, was two-fold: learning Mathers' legacy and need for acceptance long after the Salem Witch Trials and how James Franklin's defiance set the stage for press freedom and anti-inoculation rhetoric at the same time. Even as a more middle of the road businessman, Franklin used the paper to not only lampoon authority, including Mathers, but also to create a more sensationalistic view of the news. Meanwhile Mathers battled and lost to demons of old while also winning some prestige, even while not taking it.

In December 1724, a meeting with Ben Franklin offered a smart piece of advice: "Stoop as you go through it [life/world], and you will miss many thumps" (281). The message was clear and offered a lot of profound observation at the end of Mathers' life. The egotistical and vain minister had learned a few lessons in this latest battle for legacy.

Dense and full of ends, the book overs a lot of information I found fascinating as non-American history buff. Definitely worth a read on how American's flagrant ignorance of government ploys helped to create the road to vaccinations and a more critical press.

readclever's review

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5.0

If you're unaware of Boston's history and legacy of helping to seed the American Revolution, the book is great. A lot of background on the players, ranging from Cotton Mathers to the Franklins to Elisha Cook's pursuit of an independent colony. All of this political intrigue across a small pox epidemic that would change how the world viewed the illness. While Dr. Boylston performs inoculations, legally and illegally, the press and government wage war in a messy triangle that's nearly impossible to untangle at certain parts.

Coss offers not just many, many primary source information but the connections in a small town of only 13,000. He spends a lot of time making sure readers understand every level of interplay without preaching. For a first book, this is a pretty high standard to beat on his next. What is more interesting is that fact his research offers so much history that schools never teach, like the smallpox epidemics outside the Native American community, and how it could shut or revive a contested government in the blink of an eye.

The most surprising information, for me, was two-fold: learning Mathers' legacy and need for acceptance long after the Salem Witch Trials and how James Franklin's defiance set the stage for press freedom and anti-inoculation rhetoric at the same time. Even as a more middle of the road businessman, Franklin used the paper to not only lampoon authority, including Mathers, but also to create a more sensationalistic view of the news. Meanwhile Mathers battled and lost to demons of old while also winning some prestige, even while not taking it.

In December 1724, a meeting with Ben Franklin offered a smart piece of advice: "Stoop as you go through it [life/world], and you will miss many thumps" (281). The message was clear and offered a lot of profound observation at the end of Mathers' life. The egotistical and vain minister had learned a few lessons in this latest battle for legacy.

Dense and full of ends, the book overs a lot of information I found fascinating as non-American history buff. Definitely worth a read on how American's flagrant ignorance of government ploys helped to create the road to vaccinations and a more critical press.

amberinoface's review against another edition

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3.0

interesting, yet super dry.

maebinnig's review

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4.0

I was surprised to see that The Fever of 1721 is Stephen Coss's first book. It's so ambitious in scope and thoroughly researched that it matches up against the works of well-established historians and biographers.

The book's main threads are the American colonies beginning to reject distant leadership, Elisha Cooke and the beginning of "populist" politics, James & Benjamin Franklin and the origins of America's philosophy of free speech and free press, and of course, the fight to get inoculation accepted as a treatment for smallpox--in many ways the most significant medical trial in America. The many threads sometimes make the narrative feel scattered, but I see why Coss was compelled to include all of them.

Don't get me wrong--at no point are you going to forget that you're reading a history book. The beginning, especially, takes a bit of effort to get through. But it's fascinating reading, especially if you're already a bit of a history buff.

(I received this book for free through a Goodreads giveaway.)

govmarley's review

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3.0

Interesting look into the smallpox epidemic, the early history of vaccinations, and the beginnings of America before the revolution. With a good dose of my boy Ben Franklin and freedom of the press.

Do you think we shouldn't vaccinate people? Please, read this book. Smallpox, and the other eradicated diseases, were no joke. Do you believe the press should be regulated and controlled? Please, read this book. It's so interesting to see how times have changed, yet stayed the same, over the past nearly 300 years. Plus we get a glimpse of the Franklin family and other pre-revolutionary players and the lives they led prior to the revolution coming in 50 short years.

Recommend if you enjoy American history, a look into diseases and epidemics, or the history of early newspapers and politics in America. 3 stars.
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