Special Episode: Dr. Andrew Wehrman & The Contagion of Liberty
Riots over inoculations. Large-scale quarantines and lockdowns. Criticisms of government action (or inaction) during disease outbreaks. The spread of mis- and disinformation about the safety of immunizations. You may be thinking, “this is a COVID episode, isn’t it?”. Not quite. In this latest installment of the TPWKY book club we’ll be discussing another key period in US history that had profound, long-lasting impacts on public health and access to medical care: the American Revolutionary War, when liberty from smallpox was even more important to the American colonists than independence from Great Britain. Our time travel tour guide is Dr. Andrew Wehrman, Associate Professor of History at Central Michigan University, who joins us to discuss his fascinating book The Contagion of Liberty: The Politics of Smallpox in the American Revolution, published in December 2022. As our conversation reveals, public demand for inoculation was so great that riots were held to protest unequal access, our current lack of universal healthcare systems has incredibly deep roots, and George Washington’s greatest legacy may in fact be his ability to change his mind when presented with new information. With the Fourth of July just one week ago, what better time to consider this fresh perspective on the American fight for independence and freedom from disease.