A review by maebinnig
The Fever of 1721: The Epidemic That Revolutionized Medicine and American Politics, by Stephen Coss


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.)