Smoky Mountain Family Historian

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Fever Season by Jeanette Keith


Keith, Jeanette. Fever Season: The Story of a Terrifying Epidemic and the People Who Saved a City.  New York: Bloomsbury Press, 2012

The yellow fever epidemic of 1878 in Memphis, Tennessee was one of the worst epidemics in our nation's history. This book chronicles its journey up the Mississippi River from New Orleans to the Bluff City. The author has included more information on mosquitoes than most historical accounts include. She notes that no one knew the cause of yellow fever until the late 1890s and that most believed that creating sanitary conditions would thwart the progress of the disease. She has made extensive use of newspapers and archival and manuscript collections in her research. She has even utilized a few genealogical sources in her treatment of the subject. Her account is very readable and personal. She includes a great deal of information on the press in Memphis at the time. She includes a great deal of information on medical personnel from other cities responding to the crisis in Memphis and how it affected them. Her treatment puts the outbreak into its contextual history, making the book very informational for anyone wanting to read an account of what the city itself was like at that time.  She also notes the response of other regions such as St. Louis, Louisville, and Cincinnati to the yellow fever outbreak.  Persons interested in the outbreak in Greenwood, Mississippi of the same year will also find useful information in the volume. Her acknowledgments mention that Wayne Dowdy, a noted West Tennessee historian, reviewed an early form of the publication. Highly recommended for anyone interested in 19th century epidemics, Southern history, or the Memphis region. This review is based on an electronic galley copy provided through NetGalley for the purpose of review..

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