Charles VidichFeb 3, 2022
Germs at Bay
Politics, Public Health, and American Quarantine
"Quarantine, as an invention of man, is the most primitive and universal instrument of defense against contagious disease epidemics. Almost universally maligned or ignored by historians, quarantine is like an iceberg with 90 percent of its secrets hidden from view in inaccessible archives of the government."
In Germs at Bay: Politics, Public Health, and American Quarantine (Praeger/ABC-Clio, 2021), Charles Vidich explores the surprisingly rich history of quarantine in America. It's gone through five different stages and has, at times, played a key role in the American revolutionary war, the development of immigration policy, and even spawned its own code language to prevent panic from breaking out among the public. When quarantine works well, it can save lives -- but, as Vidich argues, a number of factors have to work in sync for it to be successful, and that is rarely the case.
This book is for anyone seeking to understand the challenges of controlling the spread of COVID-19, and will help readers internalize the lessons that are being demonstrated through the handling of this pandemic. Replete with primary data from years of archival exploration, Germs at Bay demonstrates the United States' long reliance on quarantine practice, and the political, social, and economic factors at all levels of government that have influenced--and been influenced by--them.
Christopher S. Rose is a social historian of medicine focusing on Egypt and the Eastern Mediterranean in the 19th and 20th century. He currently (spring 2022) teaches History at Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio, Texas, and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Texas at Austin.