A Very Remarkable Sickness: Epidemics in the Petit Nord, 1670 to 1846

From the Author's Introduction: "What follows is a study of the diffusion, or spread, of Old World epidemic disease in the Petit Nord from 1670, which marked the start of significant White penetration into the region, to 1846, by which time non-Aboriginal people threatened to overrun it. As a work of historical geography, both space and time figure prominently. Here, the focus is on the varied patterns of diffusion within the region and also on its place within a continental framework of epidemic disease. This last is critical, for an explanation of the presence of these foreign afflictions can only be gained through the consideration of the external factors that favoured or hindered their diffusion. These patterns did not remain static, though, and so this study is also concerned with the changes that occurred in epidemic diffusion over time, and the key historical factors that precipitated those changes. ----------------- ... A more insidious problem with the data, and with the use of present-day disease concepts for epidemiological analysis, is posed by the identity or behaviour of the sicknesses being observed during the study period.There are several potential facets to this. For example, we cannot always be certain that the historic disorder we wish to identify even has a modern counterpart. Occasionally in human history, there have been afflictions that have suddenly emerged from the shadows to wreak havoc on an ill-prepared population, only to disappear again. Even those readily identified today may have behaved differently in the past, having evolved over time. To-wards the end of the nineteenth century, smallpox declined considerably in its overall virulence with the appearance of a new, less destructive, strain, variola minor, while scarlet fever appears to have undergone several changes affecting its severity since the eighteenth century. Finally, we should not necessarily expect these diseases to behave in a familiar way among groups that are almost entirely susceptible, or that are comprised of people who have lowered resistance due to underlying health problems, such as concurrent chronic infections, nutritional disorders, or other stressors. For these populations, diseases that we might weather with relative ease may pose a serious threat to life, may be accompanied by other, opportunistic,infections, or may linger in their effects long after we would expect them to have gone. Still, these concerns need not stop us but only give us pause for thought. With these limitations in mind, we can now begin to consider the epidemic history of the Petit Nord." xiii-xiv.

Author
Hackett, Paul
Primary Resource
Secondary
Publication Date
2002
Publication Information

Hackett, F. J. Paul. "A Very Remarkable Sickness" Epidemics in the Petit Nord, 1670-1846. Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 2002.

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