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Education Higher Education

George Washington and Medicine

About the Module


Natalie A. Zacek received her PhD in colonial American history at Johns Hopkins University and since 2000 has taught history and American studies at the University of Manchester, where she offers courses on colonial and antebellum America, the Atlantic world, gender, and slavery. She is the author of Settler Society in the English Leeward Islands, 1670–1776 (Cambridge University Press, 2010), winner of the Royal Historical Society’s Gladstone Prize, as well as of journal articles and book chapters on the 17th and 18th century English Caribbean and the American South. Dr. Zacek is a recipient of fellowships from the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Virginia Historical Society, and the British Academy, amongst others.

Suggested Use

This module would be of particular interest to instructors in American history, history of medicine, American studies, and African American studies. The six classes parallel the sections of the exhibition and can be used to generate dialogue about the relationship between primary and secondary texts, images, and ongoing interpretation of historical materials, encouraging students to think carefully about what it is that historians do, and how they base their conclusions on the use of original sources. The “Additional Activities” ask students to engage carefully with selected documents and images in order to “do history” themselves, and can be used as an element of individual coursework, as the basis of a small-group project, or as the grounds for an intensive in-class discussion.


At the conclusion of this module, students are expected to:

  • Evaluate processes of change in medical theory and practice over time and the events and ideas that sparked these changes
  • Describe the responsibilities that a wealthy planter was expected to fulfill on his estate
  • Identify the many challenges faced by American commanders and soldiers during the Revolutionary War
  • Define the place of pain, discomfort, and illness in the daily lives of even the most privileged 18th-century Americans and of the high mortality rates that shaped their emotional lives
  • Examine and gain critical understanding of the American public’s veneration of George Washington and their sense of national bereavement at his death
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