Cholera Epidemics and the Irish. Why were the Cholera Epidemics in the United States associated with the Irish? What Changes came about in American society because of this Epidemic?

Essay by AtzelUniversity, Bachelor'sA-, November 2006

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Cholera Epidemics and the Irish

Throughout United States history, disease and immigration have been linked to one another. The rise of any disease was quickly followed by "stigmatization of one ethnic group or another." Such was the case for the Irish when the first Cholera epidemic hit in 1832. In order to understand the rationale behind the blame of the Irish, it is essential to understand the setting in the United States (new world) as well as in Europe (old world) during this time.

There were great distinctions between the environments of the "new world", with that of the "old." Since its inception, the North American Colonies were mainly based around agriculture, and remained so even after the American Revolution of 1776. On the other hand, during this same time period, Europe was experiencing the urban boom that came about with the rise of the Industrial Revolution. A direct effect of the industrial Revolution in the "old world" was the overpopulation of cities which in turn caused different types of epidemics to spread.

The United States which was 80% agrarian at this time did not experience the same Epidemics that Europe was experiencing.

Americans believed that they were a population of "healthier and more fit" people than those of the "old world" because they were not as susceptible to diseases. American society started believing in "American exceptionalism" which was the "belief that God had given their country a special mission: to serve as a role show the "old world" a better way." However, diseases such as yellow fever, smallpox and diphtheria did occur.

Americans retaliated by stating that these diseases were an "odious alien" to their soil because most of the infected were foreign born. Then, when native born Americans also started experiencing these diseases, society was quick to...