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

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JHU Press, Apr 26, 1999 - History - 262 pages
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" 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." -- Sherwin B. Nuland, M.D., New Republic

"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." -- Charles E. Rosenberg, University of Pennsylvania

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.

"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." -- Nancy Tomes, New England Journal of Medicine

"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." -- Heather Munro Prescott, New York History

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


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

User Review  - Jane Doe - Kirkus

A revealing cultural and medical history that demonstrates how eastern European Jews, already subject to a kind of social quarantine, became the scapegoats when typhus and cholera struck New York City ... Read full review

Quarantine!: East European Jewish immigrants and the New York City epidemics of 1892

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

A Ph.D. in the history of science, medicine, and technology, Markel is director of the Historical Center for the Health Sciences at the University of Michigan. Here he skillfully explores the social ... Read full review


INTRODUCTION The Concept of Quarantine
The City Responds to the Threat of Typhus
The Results of the Quarantine
The Doctors Prescription for Quarantine
The Congress Responds
EPILOGUE The Microbe as Social Leveller

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About the author (1999)

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.

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