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 the history of war, disease, and bodies, particularly in the British and French empires.  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, including the history of statistics. 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 alongside political methodologies such as statistics and censuses.  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 (awarded the AAHM 2016 George Rosen Prize and the SAHR 2014 Best First Book).    

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 colonial war was a crucial part of Enlightenment intellectual developments.  I have a long-standing interest in the relationship between war and civil society; I have published on the history of prisoners of war and co-edited a volume ‘Civilians and War in Europe, 1618-1815’.

More broadly, I am interested in global approaches to history, both for research and teaching.  One of my current research projects examines the nature of violence in the early modern world, integrating military history into broader cultural histories of violence. I am also part of a transnational and interdisciplinary project that examines the history of methodologies for quantifying and identifying casualties and losses in war, including changing notions of ‘acceptable’ losses in war. 


  • Five ways to ensure that models serve society: a manifesto

  • Histories of epidemics in the time of COVID19

  • The history of science and medicine in the context of COVID-19

  • Review: The Occupation of Havana: War, Trade, and Slavery in the Atlantic World by Elena A. Schneider

  • Review: Cherokee Medicine, Colonial Germs: An Indigenous Nation's Fight against Smallpox, 1518-1824

  • 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

  • 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)