Kentucky Author to Discuss his Book on Defeat of Cholera Epidemic in Russia During Early 20th Century

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PADUCAH, KY (10/31/2018) Native Kentuckian and author John P. Davis will share about his book Russia in the Time of Cholera: Disease under Romanovs and Soviets during a free presentation November 6 from 2-3 p.m. in Matheson Library.

Davis, an assistant professor at Hopkinsville Community College, where he has taught for the past five years, wrote the book after six months of archival research in Saratov, Moscow, and St. Petersburg, Russia. He worked in the National Library of Bethesda, Maryland, and at the Summer Research Laboratory at the Russian, East European and Eurasian Center at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

A synopsis of Davis' book cites that as the 19th century drew to a close and epidemics in western Europe were waning, the deadly cholera vibrio continued to wreak havoc in Russia, outlasting the Romanovs. He details that scholars argued that cholera eventually fell prey to better sanitation and strict quarantine under the Soviets, citing as evidence imperial mismanagement, a "backward" tsarist medical system and physicians' anachronistic environmental interpretations of the disease.

Drawing on his extensive research and so-called "material turn" in historiography, however, Davis demonstrates that Romanov-era physicians' environmental approach to disease was not ill-grounded, nor a consequence of neoliberal or populist political leanings, but born of pragmatic scientific considerations. Davis' book describes how the physicians confronted cholera in a broad and sophisticated way, laying the foundations for the system of public health that the Soviets successfully used to defeat cholera during New Economic Policy (1922-1928).

Prior to his current position, Davis taught at Ohio State University, where he was a junior faculty fellow and lecturer, and at the University of Kentucky, where he received a doctorate in Russian history.

For more information about Davis's presentation, contact Kim Russell, event coordinator and English program coordinator,