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Disease, War, and the Imperial StateThe Welfare of the British Armed Forces during the Seven Years' War$
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Erica Charters

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780226180007

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2015

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226180144.001.0001

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Wilderness Warfare, American Provincials, and Disease in North America

Wilderness Warfare, American Provincials, and Disease in North America

(p.18) Chapter One Wilderness Warfare, American Provincials, and Disease in North America
Disease, War, and the Imperial State

Erica Charters

University of Chicago Press

This chapter introduces the significance of disease in warfare, demonstrating the cultural and social frameworks that shaped responses to it and providing a survey of the structure of medical care in the British Army in the mid-eighteenth century. It opens with a discussion of the role scurvy played in British warfare in North America during the Seven Years War, including an overview of modern and eighteenth-century understandings of the disease. A detailed examination of the siege of Quebec City in 1760, in which the British garrison suffered from such high rates of scurvy that it risked losing control of New France's centre of operations, serves as a pertinent example of the significance of disease in warfare. The medical responses to scurvy provide insight into the nature of eighteenth-century medicine in the British Army, demonstrating that colonial military medicine was an influential component of eighteenth-century medical theory. In the final section, a study of smallpox explains how disparate social backgrounds resulted in different rates of disease between provincials and British soldiers, exacerbating social and imperial political tensions in the British American colonies.

Keywords:   scurvy, smallpox, wilderness warfare, British Army, French and Indian War, American provincials

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