Pox Americana By Elizabeth Fenn Book Reviews Example

Type of paper: Book Review

Topic: Literature, Books, Medicine, History, America, Disease, Health, People

Pages: 3

Words: 825

Published: 2020/11/17


In her book Pox Americana, famous author and historian Elizabeth Fenn described how the horrifying epidemic of smallpox swept across North America and Europe at a time of great political turmoil or what the Americans knew as the American War of Independence . Fenn is one of the first historians who successfully wrote detailed descriptions of her research on the effects of the smallpox epidemic (i.e. the Variola viruses) not only on the outcomes of the war and the lives of the American troops but also on the lives of the ordinary citizens devastated by the death of their loved ones.
What can be concluded from the book is the fact that the destructive and devastating power of the smallpox epidemic led to a series of public-health crises as well as an awful lot of human drama. Fenn’s research and innovative way of outlining her findings on the events that transpired during those times only showed how this duo of two tragedies was met and what its implications were for the young republic who was at the same time battling for its independence.

Discussion and Evaluation

What Fenn did in her book was more than just a narration or description of the events that happened during the great smallpox endemic of 1775 to 1782. She showed how terrible diseases such as the Smallpox as in the case of her book not only lead to the decimation of populations but also to the process of shaping the course of political events. Moreover, it was not just a mere medical history of the smallpox pandemic because information about the military history, the Native American history, and even the history of the Atlantic world were also included in her work.
When it comes to the question of organization, one would clearly see how the medical information about the smallpox and its effects on non-medical related factors and variables (i.e. politics, outcomes of simultaneously ongoing conflicts) were systematically segregated. In the first part of the book, for example, Fenn focused on the biological details of smallpox. She referred to historical documents as well as the modern new-found knowledge about the disease (the book was published in 2001 and a lot of information that the medical community know about it today were not available to the people living during the time of the smallpox epidemic) to explain how the disease works. Nonetheless, she did not deviate from the main objective of her work, her thesis, which was to show how horrifying a disease outbreak the smallpox epidemic was.
As far as clarity is concerned, the book can be fairly understood even by someone who does not have a solid medical background in pathology or even in history. Fenn found the perfect balance between the complexity of medical science (i.e. the pathophysiology of smallpox) and the simplicity of studying history (i.e. her discussion on how the disease spread from one location to another).
If there is one aspect of writing in which the author failed to do an excellent job, it would be the entertainment value that the book offers. However, with this issue, one has to consider the main objective of the author when she wrote the book; if it was to entertain, to inform, or to find a seemingly existing relationship between two variables. In this case, however, it may be safe to say that Fenn’s intention when she wrote the book was not to entertain. To entertain is probably on the last part of his list of objectives because no one would really find it entertaining to read about the death of millions of people as a result of an epidemic. Instead of focusing on the entertainment value or wit when it comes to writing and presenting the facts about the horrific event, Fenn focused more on the romanticism of human drama during that period (1777-1782). To present the book in an entertaining manner would rather be contradicting. Because of this, it can be inferred that this book is simply not for those who are looking for entertainment but rather for those who seek to be informed on the events that occurred during the great smallpox epidemic. If asked whether the book is recommendable to other readers, the answer would be a resounding yes mainly because of the book’s inherent informational value.


In summary, one can see that the author’s main purpose in writing the book was not to simply explain to a prospective reader what smallpox is, how it gets transmitted, and how it leads to the death of millions of people because this was, in fact, just a small part of the work she covered. The author of this paper believes that Fenn’s intention was to deliver her main conclusion that the smallpox is more than just a devastating disease that can cause the death of millions of people but a geopolitical outcome-changing variable and support it with arguments (i.e. medical, social, and politically-based arguments).

Works Cited

Fenn, E. "Pox Americana: The Great Smallpox Epidemic of 1775-1782." New York, N.Y., Hill and Wang Publishers (2001): 372.

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WePapers. (2020, November, 17) Pox Americana By Elizabeth Fenn Book Reviews Example. Retrieved September 25, 2023, from https://www.wepapers.com/samples/pox-americana-by-elizabeth-fenn-book-reviews-example/
"Pox Americana By Elizabeth Fenn Book Reviews Example." WePapers, 17 Nov. 2020, https://www.wepapers.com/samples/pox-americana-by-elizabeth-fenn-book-reviews-example/. Accessed 25 September 2023.
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"Pox Americana By Elizabeth Fenn Book Reviews Example." WePapers, Nov 17, 2020. Accessed September 25, 2023. https://www.wepapers.com/samples/pox-americana-by-elizabeth-fenn-book-reviews-example/
WePapers. 2020. "Pox Americana By Elizabeth Fenn Book Reviews Example." Free Essay Examples - WePapers.com. Retrieved September 25, 2023. (https://www.wepapers.com/samples/pox-americana-by-elizabeth-fenn-book-reviews-example/).
"Pox Americana By Elizabeth Fenn Book Reviews Example," Free Essay Examples - WePapers.com, 17-Nov-2020. [Online]. Available: https://www.wepapers.com/samples/pox-americana-by-elizabeth-fenn-book-reviews-example/. [Accessed: 25-Sep-2023].
Pox Americana By Elizabeth Fenn Book Reviews Example. Free Essay Examples - WePapers.com. https://www.wepapers.com/samples/pox-americana-by-elizabeth-fenn-book-reviews-example/. Published Nov 17, 2020. Accessed September 25, 2023.

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