Hidden on the Horizon: A View of the New England Throat Distemper Epidemics from Salem

NIcholas E. Bonneau

Examples of virtal statistics records of births, deaths, and marriages.

Catastrophic epidemics and black holes have something in common: observers outside these events can never truly understand what happens at the heart of the phenomena. Some limited observations are possible while standing outside the “event horizon,” but we can only theorize the extent of turmoil within; being distant from the event irrevocably distorts perceptions of it. Just as the gravity of a black hole allows not even light to escape its influence, the unspeakable grief of loss inhibits the expression of those who suffer most at the geographic or psychological center of an epidemic. Little surprise that the worst epidemic in prerevolutionary history, the throat distempers of 1730s and 1740s New England, remains so hidden from our view, even when occurring in a period as well-studied as the First Great Awakening. Read more

“That Country is my Country:” Loyalism and Maps of British America

Emily Clare Casey

"Benjamin Pickman, Sr." John Singleton Copley, ca. 1758-61, Yale University Art Gallery

In July 1783, Benjamin Pickman wrote a letter to his wife, Mary, declaring, “[T]hat Country is my Country whose Laws afford me Protection, where I am free as air, and whose Inhabitants never give me a scornful Look.”[1] Read more

Feasting the Senses

Claudia Swan

Paulus Moreelse. Portrait of a Young Woman, about 1620. Oil on panel. Art Institute of Chicago, Max and Leola Epstein Collection. Photo by Jacques Breuer.

As an art historian specialized in art of the Golden Age, I spend a lot of time thinking about the sense of sight. The exhibition Asia in Amsterdam encourages us, I think, to consider the senses more broadly than is normally the case for the Golden Age. It does so by looking beyond the visual glories of the paragons of Dutch painting Rembrandt and Vermeer, for example, and telling the story of seventeenth-century Dutch culture through objects, of which paintings are ultimately only one sort. Textiles and jewels would have been worn and invoke the sense of touch; the spices the VOC exported from Asia tickled the olfactory sense and the sense of taste, and porcelain plates and cups were used for dining, for example. We are reminded that taste is always more than what meets the eye: the very word “aesthetic” means, in Greek, “of sensation or perception,” and is not necessarily restricted to vision. Read more