Summary: The Barbary Plague sheds light on a period of American history when the fear and reality of foreign-spread contagious diseases gripped a major city and led to the disruption of a burgeoning center of shipping and commerce.
With narrative immediacy fortified by scholarly research, Marilyn Chase recreates San Francisco as it was during the late Victorian age--a melting pot of races and cultures that, nearly destroyed by an earthquake, was reborn, thanks in pa ...show morert to Rupert Blue and other city officials. However, all of this was to be disrupted when the plague first sailed into San Francisco on the steamer Australia, on the day after New Year's in 1900. Though the ship passed inspection, some of her stowaways--infected rats--escaped detection and made their way into the city's sewer system. Two months later, the first human case of bubonic plague surfaced in Chinatown.
Chase introduces us to the historical figures of the time, people such as: Quarantine Officer Dr. Joseph Kinyoun, whose diagnosis was correct but whose quarantine efforts led to his being branded an alarmist and a racist, and ultimately to his being forced from his post; and to Dr. Rupert Blue who, when confronted with another outbreak of the plague 5 years later, correctly identified rats and their fleas as the chief carriers of the disease and finally eradicated it.
Chase's synthesis and analysis of the cultural, political, medical, and, ultimately, human forces at play help to give The Barbary Plague a fresh immediacy in a time where similar considerations and fear are now part of the national discussion. Ideal for history of medicine, city life, and urban studies courses. ...show less