American Contagions
A review of

American Contagions

Epidemics and the Law from Smallpox to COVID-19

John Fabian WittYale UP • 2020

Epidemics and the Law

by David Meyer

Yale Law professor John Fabian Witt offers a compressed historical overview of how the law has guided America’s responses to pandemics.

John Fabian Witt – the Allen H. Duffy Class of 1960 Professor of Law at Yale Law School – explains how infectious diseases historically shaped American life and law. Witt contends that epidemics force people to rethink civil rights and liberties, and to confront racial injustices and economic inequality.

He shows how epidemics have forced society to create institutions that conserve people’s rights while fighting the spread of infectious diseases. Witt argues that deploying the law in the battle against epidemics has helped Americans acknowledge and confront their core values. Witt’s text will engage anyone who is following the United States’ government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and the American public’s often-baffling reactions.

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