Women have been comparing women’s bodies to coral, and women’s labor to the act of reef-making, for centuries. What’s the thinking behind this analogy? In this talk, Michele Navakas will discuss a range of overlooked writings by 19th-century U.S. women who turned repeatedly to the process of coral formation to tell one another and their supporters how to build a better polity – one that expands by sustaining others, rather than displacing them.
Sponsored by The Davida T. Deutsch Program in Women’s History
In Liberty and Insanity in the Age of the American Revolution, Sarah L. Swedberg examines how conceptions of mental illness intersected with American society, law, and politics during the early American Republic. Swedberg illustrates how concerns about insanity raised difficult questions about the nature of governance. Revolutionaries built the American government based on rational principles, but could not protect it from irrational actors that they feared could cause the body politic to grow mentally or physically ill. This book is recommended for students and scholars of history, political science, legal studies, sociology, literature, psychology, and public health.
Zachary Dorner, Assistant Clinical Professor, University Honors, University of Maryland, College Park
The period from the late seventeenth to the early nineteenth century—the so-called long eighteenth century of English history—was a time of profound global change, marked by the expansion of intercontinental empires, long-distance trade, and human enslavement. It was also the moment when medicines, previously produced locally and in small batches, became global products. As greater numbers of British subjects struggled to survive overseas, more medicines than ever were manufactured and exported to help them. Most historical accounts, however, obscure the medicine trade’s dependence on slave labor, plantation agriculture, and colonial warfare.
In Merchants of Medicines, Zachary Dorner follows the earliest industrial pharmaceuticals from their manufacture in the United Kingdom, across trade routes, and to the edges of empire, telling a story of what medicines were, what they did, and what they meant. He brings to life business, medical, and government records to evoke a vibrant early modern world of London laboratories, Caribbean estates, South Asian factories, New England timber camps, and ships at sea. In these settings, medicines were produced, distributed, and consumed in new ways to help confront challenges of distance, labor, and authority in colonial territories. Merchants of Medicines offers a new history of economic and medical development across early America, Britain, and South Asia, revealing the unsettlingly close ties among medicine, finance, warfare, and slavery that changed people’s expectations of their health and their bodies.