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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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“A Body Corporate and Politick”

“A Body Corporate and Politick”

Association, Interest, and Improvement in a Provincial City

(p.57) 4 “A Body Corporate and Politick”
The Contagious City

Simon Finger

Cornell University Press

This chapter considers two clashing ideologies that shaped the effort to promote the public health of the commercial community that Philadelphia was, rather than the rural idyll Penn had envisioned. As growth aggravated all the problems that plagued the early modern city—from fire and filth to crime and contagion—some Philadelphians claimed that these pains and perils vindicated the founder's skeptical view of city living and demonstrated the need to renounce urban luxury and subordinate private desires to the public good. Others believed that harnessing personal appetites, rather than denying them, offered not only a better solution to urban problems but also the possibility of elevating the colonies and inducting them into a shared culture of improvement with their metropolitan cousins.

Keywords:   early modern city, public health, commercial community, public good, urban luxury, urban problems, urban reform

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