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.
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