Professor and Robert David Lion Gardiner Chair in American History
Stony Brook University
Research: My research has largely focused on the experiences of Indigenous Peoples of North America with introduced diseases, especially smallpox and cholera. I have traced the Cherokee Nation’s experience with smallpox from the 1690s into the 1830s and focused on the mitigation efforts they took to protect themselves, including the adoption of vaccination during the major epidemic of 1837-1840. Currently, I am exploring how America’s explosive economic growth during the 1830s accelerated and expanded the spread of cholera and led to efforts to cover up the disease’s impact on Irish immigrants, enslaved African Americans, and ethnically cleansed Indigenous Peoples. My methods are mostly archival research, but I have also employed ethnohistorical methods—the use of oral history and archaeological records. My main questions have addressed how colonial/imperial/economic contexts have shaped the human experience with epidemic diseases.