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Liza Piper

The Clio Prizes

2024

Liza Piper, When Disease Came to This Country: Epidemics and Colonialism in Northern North America. Cambridge University Press, 2023.

Liza Piper’s history of health, disease and the dynamics of settler colonialism in the Yukon and Mackenzie District is a remarkable study based on extensive research combining settler archival materials in English and French with Indigenous oral histories to reshape our understanding of the history of epidemic disease in Northern North America. Covering exposures to various pathogens between 1860-1940, Piper analyses the interrelationship between epidemic disease, Northern environments, state infrastructures and emissaries, and Indigenous homelands, emphasizing how colonial logics and disciplining structures allowed disease to flourish, move, and transform northern lands and lives. They show how social relationships in the region were restructured, how economic orientations were disrupted, and how ecological relations were unbalanced during these epidemic outbreaks. Piper describes in exacting detail how ideas around and responses to diseases impacted relationships between Indigenous peoples and settlers, and how these impacts shaped the conditions of ongoing settler-colonial relations in the North. Piper’s When Disease Came to This Country also contains a vital revisionist corrective, revisiting, challenging, and ultimately disproving long-held historiographical conventions about the history of disease in the North and across the Americas.