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The Contagious CityThe Politics of Public Health in Early Philadelphia$
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Simon Finger

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780801448935

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9780801448935.001.0001

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Epidemic Constitutions

(p.1) Introduction
The Contagious City

Simon Finger

Cornell University Press

This introductory chapter explores the intimate links between health and politics in colonial Philadelphia. The term “epidemic constitution”, used here, was coined by English physician Thomas Sydenham (1624–1689), who used it to describe the mixture of atmospheres that determined what diseases could be expected in a particular territory. In matters of state, the constitution was the framework under which government structured the lives of individuals and the control of territories. This ambiguously overlapping language suggests how thoroughly ideas about health infused concurrent political developments. In Philadelphia, the most significant of those collaborations was the establishment of the city's public health infrastructure. And by making wellness public, public health helped make Philadelphians, Pennsylvanians, Britons, and Americans.

Keywords:   public health, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, epidemic constitution, political developments, public health in Philadelphia

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