University of Mary Washington (United States)


In 1803 Charles IV of Spain initiated a campaign against smallpox, opening vaccination rooms across the peninsula and sending the cowpox vaccine around the globe with the Royal Philanthropic Expedition. This global examination of Spain’s smallpox vaccination campaign analyzes the dynamic between the purveyors of the vaccine and the potential recipients. On both the peninsula and around the globe, the vaccination campaign engaged the diverse populations of the Spanish empire: men and women, rich and poor, Africans (both free and enslaved), Indigenous Americans, Filipinos, mixed-race peoples, and whites (both Spanish and American born). The campaign challenged deeply rooted race and gender hierarchies and asserted new claims to governmental authority. I intend to examine how each of these groups asserted their own expectations about bodily authority and governmental control as they accepted or rejected the vaccine. I have already conducted archival research in Spain and Mexico, but my plans to conduct research in Peru this summer were halted by Covid-19.  This project relates directly to the current Covid-19 as public health authorities grapple with the challenge of encouraging hundreds of millions of people of all races, classes, and cultures to submit to a novel vaccine for a novel virus. This research will result in a series of peer-reviewed articles and a book manuscript.

Principal Investigator

Allyson Poska

Professor, History, University of Mary Washington

Allyson M. Poska is professor of history at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia, and the author of four books: Gendered Crossings: Women and Migration in the Spanish Empire (New Mexico, 2016), winner of the 2017 best book prize from the Society for the Study of Early Modern Women; Women and Authority in Early Modern Spain: The Peasants of Galicia (Oxford, 2005), winner of the 2006 Roland H. Bainton Prize for best book in early modern history or theology; Women and Gender in the Western Past (two vols., coauthored with Katherine French, Houghton-Mifflin, 2006), and Regulating the People: The Catholic Reformation in Seventeenth-Century Spain (Brill, 1998). Poska coedited The Ashgate Research Companion to Women and Gender in Early Modern Europe (with Jane Couchman and Katherine McIver, Ashgate, 2013). She is also coeditor of Early Modern Women: An Interdisciplinary Journal (with Bernadette Andrea and Julie Campbell). Her work has been funded by grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities (2000 and 2019), the Council of American Overseas Research Centers (2018), the American Council of Learned Societies (2007 and 2018), the John Carter Brown Library (2011), and the American Philosophical Society (2018).