- “The happy effects of these waters”: Colonial American Mineral Spas and the British Civilizing Mission
- Early American Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal
- University of Pennsylvania Press
- Volume 14, Number 3, Summer 2016
- pp. 409-449
- View Citation
- Additional Information
Although colonial American spaces of genteel leisure like taverns, theaters, and coffeehouses have recently received considerable scholarly attention, mineral spas have largely eluded historical analysis. Those historians who have studied colonial spas have primarily used these spaces to uncover the roots of American republicanism, technological development, and changing perceptions of early modern cleanliness. But America’s mineral waters have more to reveal. In particular, these supposedly healing waters provide important insights into British imperialists’ efforts at mediating seemingly contradictory notions of civilization and wilderness. While a significant body of literature has shown that Europeans altered the natural world around them for personal gain, their interaction with mineral springs demonstrates how these imperialists adjusted themselves, as well as the environment, to suit their ideals of bodily health, scientific advancement, and imperial development. Thus, while mineral springs became key spaces to exploit both the natural world and Native American assets, the waters also became part of a larger civilizing mission dependent upon Europeans’ ability to modify their own principles and thrive in a strange New World.