Tracking Epidemics in U.S. History

Influenza epidemic of 1918-1919

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Epidemics can be attention-grabbing topics for students of health and medicine. But they are also great windows into the study of geography and history, showing us how humans have interacted with their environment over time.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, a lack of sanitation in America’s cities produced breeding grounds for disease. Without adequate knowledge or tools to combat them, these diseases easily spread to epidemic proportions. Between 1637 and 1919, more than 40 major disease epidemics swept through cities and regions of the United States.

Help your students investigate the geographic dimensions of epidemics with this table charting major epidemic outbreaks in U.S. history, from the colonial era to the early 20th century:

This resource is an ideal jumping-off point for deeper classroom inquiry into the causes and impacts of epidemics. This table can be used to help students investigate questions like:

  • In what kinds of environments did diseases often spread?
  • What were the most frequent or recurring disease epidemics?
  • More than 100 years have passed since the last major U.S. epidemic. Why do you think this is the case?

This table is part of ABC-CLIO’s United States Geography database, an essential geography reference profiling the governments, economies, histories, and issues of all 50 states. Click here to activate your free preview of this database and gain access to key learning tools including:

  • Maps, audio and video recordings, profiles of indigenous peoples and organizations, acts and laws, and state flags and animals
  • Investigate activities designed to drive student inquiry into key questions about resource management, environmental sustainability, and other geography-related issues
  • CLIOview tool that allows students to make comparisons and graph statistical data at the state level, with more than 65 categories including population growth rates, land use, capital, and more

This resource is brought to you by ABC-CLIO products for classrooms and libraries: