Plague and Fire: Battling Black Death and the 1900 Burning of Honolulus Chinatown

Paperback | August 15, 2006

byJames C. Mohr

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A little over a century ago, bubonic plague--the same Black Death that decimated medieval Europe--arrived on the shores of Hawaii just as the islands were about to become a U.S. territory. In this absorbing narrative, James Mohr tells the story of that fearful visitation and its fieryclimax--a vast conflagration that engulfed Honolulu's Chinatown. Mohr tells this gripping tale largely through the eyes of the people caught up in the disaster, from members of the white elite to Chinese doctors, Japanese businessmen, and Hawaiian reporters. At the heart of the narrative are three American physicians--the Honolulu Board of Health--whobecame virtual dictators when the government granted them absolute control over the armed forces and the treasury. The doctors soon quarantined Chinatown, where the plague was killing one or two people a day and clearly spreading. They resisted intense pressure from the white community to burn downall of Chinatown at once and instead ordered a careful, controlled burning of buildings where plague victims had died. But a freak wind whipped one of those small fires into a roaring inferno that destroyed everything in its path, consuming roughly thirty-eight acres of densely packed woodenstructures in a single afternoon. Some 5000 people lost their homes and all their possessions and were marched in shock to detention camps, where they were confined under armed guard for weeks. Next to the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, the Chinatown fire is the worst civic disaster in Hawaiian history. A dramatic account of people struggling in the face of mounting catastrophe, Plague and Fire is a stimulating and thought-provoking read.

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A little over a century ago, bubonic plague--the same Black Death that decimated medieval Europe--arrived on the shores of Hawaii just as the islands were about to become a U.S. territory. In this absorbing narrative, James Mohr tells the story of that fearful visitation and its fieryclimax--a vast conflagration that engulfed Honolulu'...

James C. Mohr is College of Arts and Sciences Distinguished Professor of History at the University of Oregon.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:256 pages, 5.79 × 8.82 × 0.59 inPublished:August 15, 2006Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195311825

ISBN - 13:9780195311822

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"This fascinating book by James C. Mohr gives a sophisticated and illuminating account of the difficulties that are involved in coping with epidemics or natural disasters."--American Historical Review