Cover: Necropolis: Disease, Power, and Capitalism in the Cotton Kingdom, from Harvard University PressCover: Necropolis in HARDCOVER


Disease, Power, and Capitalism in the Cotton Kingdom

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Product Details


$35.00 • £28.95 • €31.50

ISBN 9780674241053

Publication Date: 04/19/2022

Academic Trade

352 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

9 photos, 3 maps

Belknap Press


More than two years into the Covid-19 pandemic, the social, economic and political implications of public health crises are more apparent than ever—as is the fact that people of color and poorer communities often bear the brunt of these contagions’ consequences. [This] new analysis of yellow fever in antebellum New Orleans highlights striking parallels with the ongoing pandemic.—Karin Wulf, Smithsonian

Captivating… Olivarius illuminates the complex workings of ‘immunocapitalism’ and paints a vivid picture of antebellum New Orleans. This is a timely and thought-provoking look at how disease outbreaks have exacerbated inequality in America.Publishers Weekly

A brilliant book. Olivarius’s insightful reading of sources and beautiful writing give us a new and important way to think about slavery, race, health, and hierarchy. This transformative work is a pivotal addition to the scholarship on American slavery.—Annette Gordon-Reed, author of On Juneteenth

Olivarius delivers a stunning account of ‘high-risk, high-reward’ profiteering in the yellow fever–ridden Crescent City. Nineteenth-century New Orleans appears as a world in which a deadly virus altered every aspect of a brutal social system, exacerbating savage inequalities of enslavement, race, and class—inequalities that will have readers pondering the choices we make as a society in epidemics of our own.—John Fabian Witt, author of American Contagions: Epidemics and the Law from Smallpox to COVID-19

A real page-turner. Necropolis propels the reader along, not least because the parallels to our coronavirus pandemic are impossible to ignore. Olivarius is convincing in her argument that disease was an important way to wield power—political, economic, and racial. This fresh, beautifully written book makes original contributions to the literatures on medicine, capitalism, politics, and welfare.—Leslie M. Harris, author of In the Shadow of Slavery: African Americans in New York City, 1626–1863

In flowing prose, Olivarius offers an intriguing account of the systematic relationship between yellow fever and power in nineteenth-century New Orleans. Her innovative term ‘immunocapitalism’ brings together multiple threads to show the ways in which yellow fever was not simply a natural phenomenon, no matter how much those who profited because of its inequitable impact tried to naturalize it. Deeply researched, extremely well written, and provocatively argued, Necropolis is a rich and fascinating book.—Edward E. Baptist, author of The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism

The remarkable thing about Necropolis is that its subject has been hiding in plain sight all along. In nineteenth-century New Orleans, yellow fever was more than an episodic worry; it saturated everyday consciousness, splitting the world between those who had gained immunity and those who had not. No effort was spared to prove that the scourge’s supposedly deterministic properties not only necessitated African enslavement, but also produced the foreign exchange that kept the urban economy humming. Olivarius unpacks this story with skill and feeling in a book of truly impressive research and scope.—Lawrence N. Powell, author of The Accidental City: Improvising New Orleans

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