The Health of the Country: How American Settlers Understood Themselves and Their Land

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Basic Books, 2002 - History - 388 pages
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A vivid history of American western expansion, this title captures the excitement and romanticism of the frontier experience as well as another, lesser-known reality of settling: how terrifying the untamed wilderness of the West was to its homesteaders. In a time when good health was tantamount to perfectly balanced humors, settlers thought that the wild extremes of the borderlands disrupted the delicate equilibrium of their bodies. Conevery Bolton Valencius is the first historian to address how central this fear was to frontier life. Settlers' primary concern was to save themselves from the painful, fatal, or disabling ailments that are as much a part of American history as cowboys and wagon trains. This is a fresh account of the gritty details of American expansion, animated by the voices of the settlers themselves.
 

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The health of the country: how American settlers understood themselves and their land

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This book is based on the author's Harvard dissertation, which won the 1999 Allan Nevins Prize. (Valencius is currently on the history faculty of Washington University in Saint Louis.) While ... Read full review

Contents

New Country
15
Body
53
Places
85
Airs
109
Waters
133
Local Knowledge Medical Geography and the Intellectual Hinterland
159
Cultivation
191
Racial Anxiety
229
Conclusion
259
AFTERWORD
265
Archival Information and Abbreviations
271
Notes
275
Bibliography
339
Permissions
373
Index
375
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Page 351 - This book points out, in plain language, free from doctors' terms, the diseases of men, women, and children, and the latest and most approved means used in their cure, and is intended expressly for the benefit of families in the western and southern states.

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About the author (2002)

Conevery Bolton Valencius received her Ph.D. from Harvard. In 2000 she won the prestigious Allan Nevins Prize, awarded by the Society of American Historians for best-written dissertation in American history. She lives in St. Louis, Missouri, where she is an assistant professor at Washington University.

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