Dr Erica Charters

Featured Publication

Disease, War, and the Imperial State: The Welfare of the British Armed Forces During the Seven Years' War (University of Chicago Press, 2014)

Disease, War, and the Imperial State: The Welfare of the British Armed Forces During the Seven Years' War

The Seven Years' War, often called the first global war, spanned North America, the West Indies, Europe, and India. In these locations diseases such as scurvy, smallpox, and yellow fever killed far more than combat did, stretching the resources of European states. In Disease, War, and the Imperial State, Erica Charters demonstrates how disease played a vital role in shaping strategy and campaigning, British state policy, and imperial relations during the Seven Years' War. Military medicine was a crucial component of the British war effort; it was central to both eighteenth-century scientific innovation and the moral authority of the British state. Looking beyond the traditional focus on the British state as a fiscal war-making machine, Charters uncovers an imperial state conspicuously attending to the welfare of its armed forces, investing in medical research, and responding to local public opinion. Charters shows military medicine to be a credible scientific endeavor that was similarly responsive to local conditions and demands. Disease, War, and the Imperial State is an engaging study of early modern warfare and statecraft, one focused on the endless and laborious task of managing manpower in the face of virulent disease in the field, political opposition at home, and the clamor of public opinion in both Britain and its colonies.

  • Disease and war
  • Cultural history of war
  • Global history and disease

My research examines how war and disease intersect with state formation and state power, particularly in colonial contexts.  My monograph Disease, War, and the Imperial State: The Welfare of British Armed Forces during the Seven Years War (Chicago, 2014) traces how responses to disease shaped military strategy, medical theory, and the nature of British imperial authority.  The American Association for the History of Medicine awarded this the George Rosen Prize for 2016, and the Society for Army Historical Research awarded this Best First Book for 2014.  My published work on this topic also includes 'The Caring Fiscal-Military State during the Seven Years War, 1756-1763', Historical Journal (2009).

My current research focuses on manpower during the eighteenth century, examining the history of bodies as well as the history of methods used to measure and enhance bodies, labour, and population as a whole.  Since disease was the biggest threat to manpower in the early modern world, I look at how disease environments – throughout the world - shaped military, commercial, and agricultural power, as well as how overseas experiences shaped European theories of medicine, biology, and race.  I am particularly interested in reconciling Enlightenment histories of a cosmopolitan Europe with military histories that portray the eighteenth century as a period of near-constant military conflict, in part by tracing how war was a crucial part of Enlightenment intellectual developments.

More broadly, I am interested in global approaches to history, both for research and teaching.  My current research uses comparative and transnational frameworks, and my focus on disease and early modern warfare also draws on networks and transmission patterns that challenge national boundaries.  I am also interested in the relationship between war and civil society during the early modern period.  One of my current research projects is on prisoners of war during the eighteenth century, and I have also co-edited an interdisciplinary volume, Civilians and War in Europe, 1618-1815.  

  • Warfare, Medicine, and Disease in the Atlantic World

  • L’histoire de la quantification : les guerres franco-britanniques et le développement de la statistique médicale (The history of quantification: Anglo-French wars and the development of medical statistics )

  • Review of: Jeremiah Dancy, The Myth of the Press Gang: Volunteers, impressment and the naval manpower problem in the late eighteenth century

  • The Administration of War and French Prisoners of War in Britain, 1756–1763

  • Colonial Disease, Translation, and Enlightenment: Franco-British Medicine and the Seven Years‘ War

  • Disease, War, and the Imperial State

  • Review of: Paul Kopperman's Regimental Practice by John Buchanan, MD: An Eighteenth-Century Medical Diary and Manual

  • Making the Body Modern: Race, Medicine, and the Colonial Soldier in the Mid Eighteenth Century

  • Civilians and War in Europe, 1618-1815

  • The Administration of War and French Prisoners of War in Britain, 1756-1763

  • More

I would be willing to hear from potential DPhil students regarding history of war; history of disease and medicine; early modern empires; French Empire 18th century; British Empire 18th century

I would be willing to hear from any potential Masters students looking at history of war; history of medicine; environmental history; British history; French history; imperial and global history.

I currently teach:


  • Methods and Themes in the History of Medicine
  • HSMT Graduate Research Forum
  • Global and Imperial History: Methods and Concepts
  • Disease, Medicine and Empire in the Americas
  • Manpower and State Power


  Medicine, Empire, and Improvement
  Military and Society in Britain and France
In the Media

Disease & The Seven Years' War (Ben Franklin's World - 9 January 2017)


List of site pages