Peter J. Gomes Memorial Book Prize Awarded
Andrew M. Wehrman recognized for The Contagion of Liberty: The Politics of Smallpox in the American Revolution
The Massachusetts Historical Society (MHS) has awarded the 2023 Peter J. Gomes Memorial Book Prize to Andrew M. Wehrman for his book The Contagion of Liberty: The Politics of Smallpox in the American Revolution, published in 2022 by Johns Hopkins University Press. The Gomes Prize is given to the best nonfiction work on the history of Massachusetts published during the preceding year. Wehrman will receive the award at an event in 2024.
After reviewing 12 submissions that interpret the history of Massachusetts through a wide range of subjects and time periods, the Peter J. Gomes Book Prize selection committee chose The Contagion of Liberty: The Politics of Smallpox in the American Revolution as the 2023 winner. According to the committee members, the book, “provides a new and timely examination of smallpox in British America that focuses on the politics of public health measures” and “builds on other works on smallpox during this period with accounts of the emergence of the virulent virus, the role that slavery and racism played in inoculation, and General Washington’s critical shift from opposing to supporting inoculation of Continental Army soldiers.”
The selection committee praised The Contagion of Liberty for being “unique in examining changes that came with the development of vaccinations during the early Republic. The result is an outstanding study of the past that can help us better understand how Americans have managed public health emergencies.” Calling the book an “indispensable and essential work of scholarship,” the committee members unanimously voted to award the 2023 Peter J. Gomes Memorial Book Prize to Prof. Andrew M. Wehrman.
Andrew M. Wehrman is Associate Professor of History at Central Michigan University. His research and teaching focus on Colonial and Revolutionary Era America as well as the history of medicine, disease, and public health. Prof. Wehrman earned his Ph.D. from Northwestern University and previously taught at Marietta College. He is the recipient of the 2008 Walter Muir Whitehill Award for his article, “The Siege of Castle Pox,” published in the New England Quarterly.
About the Peter J. Gomes Memorial Book Prize
The Peter J. Gomes Memorial Book Prize, for the best nonfiction work on the history of Massachusetts published during the preceding year, honors the memory of a respected Harvard scholar and beloved Fellow of the MHS. Peter J. Gomes (1942-2011) was elected to the MHS in 1976 and joined the Board of Overseers in 2010. He was Plummer Professor of Christian Morals and Pusey Minister in the Memorial Church at Harvard University.