Jim Downs is the Gilder Lehrman-National Endowment for the Humanities Professor of Civil War Studies and History at Gettysburg College. His research interests include Civil War and Reconstruction; slavery and emancipation; medicine and public health; and gender and sexuality. His most recent book is on the origin of epidemiology, Maladies of Empire: How Colonialism, Slavery, and War Transformed Medicine (2021). Downs is also the author of Stand by Me: The Forgotten History of Gay Liberation (2016), a history of gay life in the 1970s, and Sick from Freedom: African-American Illness and Suffering during the Civil War and Reconstruction (2012), which examines the unexpected medical consequences of emancipation. In 2015-2017, he was awarded a multiyear Mellon New Directions fellowship and was a Visiting Fellow in medical anthropology at Harvard University. His research uncovered a smallpox epidemic which raged from 1862 to 1870 as well as the history of the Freedmen's Hospitals, the first system of federal health care. He is a coeditor, with Jennifer Brier and Jennifer Morgan, of Connexions: Histories of Race and Sex in North America (2016). Downs has published articles in The Atlantic, The New Yorker, Slate, New York Times, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and The Washington Post, among other publications, and he serves as editor of Civil War History.
NEW IN 2021: Maladies of Empire: How Colonialism, Slavery, and War Transformed Medicine (Belknap, Harvard University Press)
With Only a Trace: Same-Sex Sexual Violence on Slave Plantations in the United States, 1607-1861
This lecture explores the question of same-sex desire and violence among enslaved men in the plantation South from 1607-1865. Drawing on a thin volume of archival records, this lecture also questions how historians evaluate evidence and the methods they employ in writing about the past.