2018 Julia Mansfield (Stanford University), “The Disease of Commerce: Yellow Fever in the Atlantic World, 1793-1805.”
Mansfield offers historians a new framework for understanding the yellow fever pandemic that swept the Atlantic world at the turn of the nineteenth century. Taking a global approach, she demonstrates how the disease travelled on ships, spread along international trade routes, was disseminated via the slave trade, and became a feature—and a weapon—of warfare. Yellow fever’s story, she argues, is an economic as well as an environmental one, encompassing the efforts of merchants and governmental officials to insure cargoes, manage risk, and pursue financial advantage while addressing devastating public health crises. In the United States, as the fledgling federal government struggled to keep trade routes open and collect customs revenues while the disease raged, officials’ decisions had an unforeseen consequence: enhancing the state’s legal and economic reach. Written with flair and elegance in a confident authorial voice, Mansfield’s dissertation provides a fresh lens through which to capture the yellow fever’s history and legacy.
Julia Mansfield earned her Ph.D. at Stanford University under the supervision of Professor Richard White, and now holds a Cassius Marcellus Clay Postdoctoral Fellowship in the History Department at Yale University.