Ben Mutschler's research and teaching interests include Colonial and Revolutionary America, the history of family and household, the history of poverty and welfare, the history of disease, and most recently the history of disability.
After graduating from Harvard College in 1988, Mutschler played music professionally in and around the Boston area before returning to graduate school to study history at Columbia University, where he received his Ph.D. in 2000. In addition to teaching courses on colonial and Revolutionary America and on the history of disease at OSU, Ben has been visiting assistant professor of History at the College of William and Mary.
Mutschler’s first book, The Province of Affliction: Illness and the Making of Early New England (Chicago, 2020), explores the ways in which the routine presence of illness in everyday life shaped and strained the most basic institutions of eighteenth-century New England, from families and households, to neighborhoods and towns, all the way to the highest reaches of government. The unexpected dislocations of acute disease, the enormous financial and social costs of caring for the chronically ill, the vexing problem of determining who, finally, would be responsible for afflictions that were deemed an inevitable part of living in the temporal world – these issues continue with us today, and we have a good deal to learn from the struggles and resilience of the early modern world. The project has been supported by several short-term fellowships at archives throughout New England and long-term fellowships from the Woodrow Wilson Foundation and the Omohundro Institute.
Mutschler’s new book project examines the ways in which discussions of citizenship in the era of the American Revolution engaged questions of ability and disability. What qualities of body, mind, and temperament separated the monarchical subject from the new republican citizen?
The Province of Affliction can be found here:
Selected public programs featuring discussions of the book:
“Before Covid: Illness in Everyday Life in Early New England” (in discussion with Ashley Cataldo, curator of manuscripts at the American Antiquarian Society, and featuring collections at AAS):
“The Province of Affliction” (in conversation with Liz Covart, host of the “Ben Franklin’s World” Podcast)
“From Inoculation to Vaccination” (part one of two-part series that features several historians in a narrative episode of “Ben Franklin’s World”)