NEWS

CMU's Wehrman wins national award for book

Andrew Wehrman won the Peter J. Gomes Memorial Book Prize

| Author: Hadlee Rinn | Media Contact: Kara Owens

Andrew Wehrman, Ph.D., a professor in history, won the Peter J. Gomes Memorial Book Prize for his book, “The Contagion of Liberty.” The book was also a finalist for the LA Times Book Prize for History.  

“The Contagion of Liberty” is a look into how colonists navigated the American Revolution during a smallpox epidemic. Colonists were concerned about protecting their family and the type of government they would like to have. Wehrman says, “The book is about how ordinary people understood their health and the role of the government in protecting their health.”  

On the differences between his book and others of a similar topic, Wehrman says, “My book is less about death and destruction, and more about how people defeated smallpox and adopted inoculation.” Wehrman also mentions a large part of the book is George Washington’s decision to inoculate the continental army.  

Wehrman enjoys researching the history of medicine, as he initially debated between being a doctor and studying history in his college years. Wehrman says, “So often medicine and politics don’t go together in textbooks […] which is kind of a problem because when Covid came, people didn’t know [the role of government during an epidemic or pandemic].” 

Wehrman and his book have also been featured in many podcasts and book presentations. Wehrman mentions specifically the podcast, “This Podcast Will Kill You,” starring two epidemiologists discussing diseases. Wehrman says, “It’s been fun to talk to not only history buffs […] but scientists and others on the frontlines of Covid. They could talk more about parallels between [smallpox] and Covid.”  

Wehrman will receive his award at the Colonial Society of Massachusetts in Boston on Mar. 23. He also speaks at events across the country and on the web about his book, which can be found on his website. Or, buy a copy of The Contagion of Liberty

This story is brought to you by the  Office of Research and Graduate Studies.