Thursday, September 22, 2022

Necropolis: Disease, Power, and Capitalism in the Cotton Kingdom by Kathryn Olivarius -- BOOK BEGINNING


Welcome back to Book Beginnings on Fridays, where participants share the opening sentence (or so) of the book they are reading this week. You can also share from a book you want to highlight just because it caught your fancy.

One January morning in 1825, a white, seventeen-year-old boy from Newton, New Jersey, woke up with a case of “Mississippi Fever” – an insatiable urge to head west and south.
-- from Necropolis: Disease, Power, and Capitalism in the Cotton Kingdom by Kathryn Olivarius.

This nonfiction book explores the history and sociology of yellow fever in New Orleans in the 19th Century. It looks like a fascinating piece of American history. 

I admit I wouldn't have come across this book on my own. But I'm working on a sexual assault case here in Oregon with the author's mother, an attorney named Ann Olivarius, and Ann gave me a copy. I will definitely read it!


Please add the link to your Book Beginning post in the box below. If you share on social media, please use the hashtag #bookbeginnings. Thanks!

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Freda at Freda's Voice hosts another teaser event on Fridays. Participants share a two-sentence teaser from page 56 of the book they are reading -- or from 56% of the way through the audiobook or ebook. Please visit Freda's Voice for details and to leave a link to your post.


From Necropolis:

Early on, Anglo-Americans were genuinely scared that yellow fever would throw a wrench in the wheels of American government. the disease killed so many migrants that it embarrassed American authority.

Antebellum New Orleans sat at the heart of America's slave and cotton kingdoms. It was also where yellow fever epidemics killed as many as 150,000 people during the nineteenth century. With little understanding of mosquito-borne viruses--and meager public health infrastructure--a person's only protection against the scourge was to "get acclimated" by surviving the disease. About half of those who contracted yellow fever died.
. . . .
The question of good health--who has it, who doesn't, and why--is always in part political. Necropolis shows how powerful nineteenth-century white Orleanians--all allegedly immune--pushed this politics to the extreme. They constructed a society that capitalized mortal risk and equated perceived immunity with creditworthiness and reliability. Instead of trying to curb yellow fever through sanitation or quarantines, immune white Orleanians took advantage of the chaos disease caused. Immunological discrimination therefore became one more form of bias in a society premised on inequality, one more channel by which capital disciplined and divided the population.


  1. Being a Louisiana girl, I'm always interested in learning more about my state's history. This sounds like one I need to read!

  2. So glad to be able to join today. You always feature books that stretch me as a reader. Thank you!

  3. Sounds like an interesting topic. I hope you enjoy it. Have a good weekend!

  4. I hope you are really enjoying the book! Happy weekend!


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