Atlantic History Medicine in the Atlantic World
by
Katherine Johnston
  • LAST REVIEWED: 24 August 2018
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 June 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199730414-0085

Introduction

Various medical traditions from Africa, Europe, and the Americas converged in the Atlantic world between the 16th and 19th centuries, and all of them changed as a result. On first contact, all three had significant elements in common: the medical traditions of each place had a religious dimension to them, although it was stronger in some than in others, and all three used botanical medicines of various kinds. Although Europeans had traditionally recognized the conjunction of religion and medicine (hospital nurses, for example, were often religious figures, and prayer formed a part of the healing process), they did not recognize the religious components of African or Native American medicine as legitimate. In some cases they denounced these practices as witchcraft, while in others they did not recognize crucial ceremonial components to the medical and healing process. Europeans did, however, seek to obtain botanical cures from the Americas and went in search of plants, as well as knowledge of these plants, to enhance their own medicinal capability. After initially sharing some botanical knowledge with Europeans, Native Americans eventually proved reluctant to share such knowledge. They were more likely to share botanical medicines with Africans, who had some similar traditions and plants as well as knowledge. Both African and Native American medicinal techniques changed as healers learned from one another, and Afro-Caribbean healers developed obeah, which had many uses, some of them medicinal. European medicine also changed during this period. Most European medical traditions relied on a view of the body as made up of four humors, and health depended upon a stable balance between the internal humors and external elements. An imbalance could cause ill health, and a recalibration of that balance could restore health. During the 17th and 18th centuries, the relationship between the body and its environment gained prominence in European medical thought, particularly as increasing numbers of people left their native environments to travel to distant climates. The idea that people’s health depended on their surrounding environments led to an emphasis on preventative medicine through environmental management, and these ideas contributed to the emerging field of public health. Still, physicians continued to rely on plant-based medicines like rhubarb, jalap, cinchona bark, rattlesnake root, arrowroot, dogwood, and many more. While Native Americans, Africans, and Europeans sometimes used the same plants to treat the same ailments, and Africans and Europeans both benefited from inoculation techniques, cultural differences and varying understandings of health, medicine, and the body prevented a comprehensive merging of medical techniques. As a result, health care and medicine remained culturally, regionally, ethnically, and economically specific across the Atlantic world.

General Overviews and Edited Collections

While most of the (monograph) overviews on medicine in the Atlantic world focus on British North America, edited collections can have a broader reach and give a fuller picture of the subject. Still, a couple of surveys are worthwhile overviews: Duffy 1993 argues that medicine and medical practice in colonial British America developed as its own entity, distinct both from British and from Native American medicine but incorporating traits of both. Reiss 2000 offers a fairly comprehensive survey of illness, health, medicine, and treatment in colonial British America, including particularly prevalent diseases and their treatments. Leavitt and Numbers 1985 contains a large range of topics, mostly in the 19th-century United States, from midwifery to yellow fever to environmental medicine to the development of the medical profession, though the essays (with a few exceptions) overwhelmingly discuss the white population. Leavitt’s later edited collection (Leavitt 1999) is a substantial departure from this model, and the range of contributions on women’s health in America from the 17th through the 20th century is both thoughtful and inclusive (although the bulk of the contributions discuss the 19th and 20th centuries). The essays in Arnold 1996 are not exclusively Atlantic in subject, though several touch on medicine, disease, health, and medical knowledge in Brazil, West Africa, and the Caribbean. Delbourgo and Dew 2008 offers an eclectic collection of essays on the connections between the natural world and medical knowledge; standouts include essays on Brazil and on Saint Domingue as well as an essay by Susan Scott Parrish on indigenous, African, and European knowledge sharing, production, and concealment in British colonial America. Cook and Walker 2013 is a special issue of the journal Social History of Medicine, in which the editors have collected essays on smallpox inoculation, bioprospecting, and transatlantic medical networks. Cook and Walker’s introduction to this collection gives a good overview of recent historiography on medicine in the international Atlantic world. Finally De Barros, et al. 2009 focuses largely on the 19th and 20th centuries. But the essays cover a broad range of places, peoples, and subjects, and this is one of the best edited collections of medicine in the Atlantic world today.

  • Arnold, David, ed. Warm Climates and Western Medicine. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1996.

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    More than half of these essays are Atlantic in nature and discuss medical knowledge and practices in a range of “warm” places. There is a slight imperial bent, as the focus on other places tends to be on how European medical practitioners changed their practices due to contact with others.

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  • Cook, Harold J., and Timothy D. Walker. “Circulation of Medicine in the Early Modern Atlantic World.” Social History of Medicine 26.3 (2013): 337–351.

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    Explains the pains European medical practitioners and merchants took to procure various foods and spices for medicinal use during the early modern period. Argues that European medicine changed from a humoral approach to one focused on medicinal simples and compounds as more products became available globally. This introductory overview precedes a special issue of the journal focused on the circulation of medical knowledge in the Atlantic world, containing articles by Pablo Gómez and Timothy Walker (see The Iberian Atlantic), Londa Schiebinger on smallpox inoculation, and Renate Wilson on transatlantic medical networks.

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  • De Barros, Juanita, Steven Palmer, and David Wright, eds. Health and Medicine in the Circum-Caribbean, 1800–1968. New York: Routledge, 2009.

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    As its title suggests, most of the essays in this edited collection relate to the 19th and 20th centuries, but the subject matter departs from other collections, with several on the Spanish Caribbean and one on the Danish West Indies.

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  • Delbourgo, James, and Nicholas Dew, eds. Science and Empire in the Atlantic World. New York: Routledge, 2008.

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    Although medicine is not the chief focus of this collection, it appears in several of the essays. Chief among them are François Regourd’s chapter on mesmerism in Saint Domingue; Júnia Ferreira Furtado’s piece on 18th-century Brazil and Portuguese physicians’ incorporation of local medical knowledge into their worldview; and Susan Scott Parrish’s essay on British America, which discusses white perceptions of African knowledge of plants, both poisonous and medicinal.

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  • Duffy, John. From Humors to Medical Science: A History of American Medicine. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1993.

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    An account of the development of medical practice and physicians in British America. Early chapters focus on the 18th century and on colonial medicine as distinct from native and British medicine.

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  • Leavitt, Judith Walzer, and Ronald L. Numbers, eds. Sickness and Health in America: Readings in the History of Medicine and Public Health. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1985.

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    A good overview of medicine and public health in the 19th-century United States for women and men of all classes, though mostly white.

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  • Leavitt, Judith Walzer, ed. Women and Health in America: Historical Readings. 2d ed. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1999.

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    A diverse range of essays on women’s health, including significant sections on health-care providers and public health. Contributions also cover subjects such as fertility, birthing, sexuality, and mental illness for women of different races and ethnicities.

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  • Reiss, Oscar. Medicine in Colonial America. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2000.

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    A comprehensive survey of illness, health, medicine, and medical treatment in (mostly white) British colonial America.

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Primary Sources

The primary sources available for Atlantic medicine are both vast and narrow; a significant number of such sources exist, but they are limited in perspective and overwhelmingly represent the views of white, male, and largely European-trained physicians. Some of these writings detailed the enormous number of plants (as potential drugs) that natives used in the Americas, such as Nicolás Monardes’s 16th-century catalogue brimming with medicinal plants. Although Monardes himself never visited the Americas, his text reported many South American Indian plant cures. It proved wildly popular when it was published in 1565 in Spain and was quickly translated into several languages (see Monardes 1577). Specifically taking aim at Monardes for his lack of first-hand experience, later texts such as Hughes 1672 claimed their authority based upon the author’s personal travel to the Americas (although Hughes copied significantly from Monardes). While 17th-century physicians readily acknowledged their eagerness to learn of medicinal cures from local inhabitants (such as Dutch physicians in Brazil; see Piso, et al. 1648), by the 18th century physicians tended to be more ambivalent toward non-European medical practices. Philadelphia physician Benjamin Rush, for example, explained that it would be “a reproach to our schools of physic, if modern physicians were not more successful than the Indians, even in the treatment of their own diseases” (Rush 1774, p. 46). Starting in the late 17th century and expanding through the eighteenth, a new genre of texts emerged as a significant number of physicians published medical treatises specifically for visitors to the Caribbean. These treatises provide a rich source of information for historians, as they touch on preventative medicine, observations of various illnesses, curative practices, and recipes for medical concoctions. The vast majority of these, such as the popular treatise Lind 1768, were directed at Europeans traveling to hot climates. Grainger 1802 stands out in this group as it was the first to focus almost exclusively on diseases of enslaved populations and served as a medical manual for West Indian planters. In addition, domestic medical manuals began to proliferate during the 18th century, and many colonial households kept copies of such manuals to practice self-care rather than seek out the expensive attentions of physicians. Buchan 1772 proved particularly popular and was reprinted for many decades in Britain and North America. Increasing numbers of primary sources, including treatises and personal diaries, are available through online databases (for more of these, see Stephen Kenny’s article on “Slavery, Health, and Medicine” in the Oxford Bibliographies in Atlantic History).

  • Buchan, William. Domestic Medicine; or the Family Physician. Philadelphia: John Dunlop, 1772.

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    Buchan’s text, originally published in 1769 in Scotland, went through over twenty editions and remained in print for ninety years. It enjoyed an enormous transatlantic audience as many people used it as a primary medical manual rather than consulting a physician.

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  • Grainger, James. An Essay on the More Common West-India Diseases; and the Remedies Which That Country Itself Produces. To Which Are Added, Some Hints on the Management, &c. of Negroes. 2d ed. Edinburgh, UK: Mundell, 1802.

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    The first significant text by a plantation physician to focus on diseases of enslaved populations in the West Indies, Grainger describes particular illnesses and their cures, as well as advising planters on how best to keep enslaved laborers healthy (such as feeding them adequately and ensuring they had dry living conditions).

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  • Hughes, William. The American Physitian; or, a Treatise of the Roots, Plants, Trees, Shrubs, Fruit, Herbs, &c. Growing in the English Plantations in America. London: J. C., 1672.

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    Not quite as extensive as Monardes’s work, Hughes claims his was created first-hand and is therefore superior. Discusses a number of plants and their medicinal uses from the British Caribbean.

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  • Lind, James. An Essay on Diseases Incidental to Europeans in Hot Climates, with the Method of Preventing Their Fatal Consequences. London: T. Becket & P. A. De Hondt, 1768.

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    Incredibly popular and translated into multiple languages, Lind’s text served as a handbook for (wealthy) Europeans traveling to hot climates. Demonstrates a strong belief in environmental medicine, microclimates, and the necessity of particular behaviors to preserve a traveler’s health.

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  • Monardes, Nicolás. Joyfull Newes Out of the Newe Founde Worlde. London: Willyam Norton, 1577.

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    This is the English translation from 1565 Spanish edition, Historia medicinal de las cosas que se traen de nuestras Indias Occidentales que sirven en Medicina. Monardes, a Spanish physician and botanist, includes an astounding number of plants from the Americas and their various uses in this collection. Translated into Latin, Italian, English, French, and German and reprinted over two dozen times. Contains illustrations as well.

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  • Piso, Willem, Georg Marggaf, and Johannes Laet. Historia naturalis Brasiliae: Auspicio et beneficio Illustriss. I. Mauritii com. Nassau. Amsterdam: Ludovicus Elzevirium, 1648.

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    Divided into three parts, this Dutch natural history of Brazil contains sections on diseases and treatments found in the colony, including sections on poisons and antidotes. Its authors discuss their comparative lack of tropical medical knowledge along with various remedies used by local inhabitants (and the authors’ attempts to acquire knowledge about these remedies).

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  • Rush, Benjamin. An Inquiry into the Natural History of Medicine among the Indians of North America, and a Comparative View of Their Diseases and Remedies, with Those of Civilized Nations. Philadelphia, 1774.

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    Rush’s explanation of his views of illness and remedies among Native Americans in North America; remarkable for its boldness and assertiveness in describing both illnesses and remedies in almost entirely Euro-American terms. Reveals Rush’s confidence in the superiority of European medicine (physicians of “civilized nations” are “the masters of nature” [p. 36]) even as he acknowledges their “ignorance” regarding many diseases (p. 41).

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Diaries and Correspondence

Some of the best sources for Atlantic world medicine are personal diaries, letterbooks, and correspondence. Some prominent diaries can be found online, while others are housed in archives. A few readily accessible diaries of note include Martha Ballard’s Diary Online and those of Landon Carter (see Carter 1987) and Elizabeth Drinker (see Drinker 1991). Some personal correspondence is also available in digitized form online; one starting point is the Lowcountry Digital History Initiative, which contains digitized manuscript collections and archival material, as well as links to other sites containing similar sources.

  • Carter, Landon. The Diary of Colonel Landon Carter of Sabine Hall, 1752–1778. Edited by Jack P. Greene. Richmond: Virginia Historical Society, 1987.

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    An edited journal of Virginia planter Landon Carter; contains significant sections on 18th-century health. Carter had medical training, and he describes medicines and diets he prescribed to his family members and to the enslaved laborers on his plantation.

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  • Drinker, Elizabeth. The Diary of Elizabeth Drinker: The Life Cycle of an Eighteenth-Century Woman. 3 vols. Edited by Elaine Forman Crane. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1991.

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    Drinker’s diary covers nearly half a century, focusing especially on the last decade of the 18th century and the first decade of the nineteenth. Entries include information on medical practices, yellow fever, and general health of Drinker’s family and friends.

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  • The Lowcountry Digital History Initiative.

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    Contains a significant number of family papers and correspondence, among other collections, from the 18th- and 19th-century Lowcountry in digitized form. Users can access collections of several Lowcountry area libraries, browsing by institution or media type.

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  • Martha Ballard’s Diary Online.

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    This digitized version of the diary of Martha Ballard, a late 18th/early 19th-century midwife and medical practitioner in Maine, contains scans of the diary along with browse and search functions. For an edited version, see Ulrich 1991 (cited under New England).

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  • Pinckney, Eliza Lucas. The Letterbook of Eliza Lucas Pinckney, 1739–1762. Edited by Elise Pinckney and Marvin R. Zahniser. Charleston: University of South Carolina Press, 1972.

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    An edited collection of correspondence from Eliza Lucas Pinckney, beginning shortly after she moved to South Carolina at age 18. Pinckney was part of a prominent planter class and experimented with indigo and silk production in the Lowcountry; she also had four children, three of whom survived to late adulthood. Letters discuss family, plantation, and local matters, including health.

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Native American Medicine

The literature on Native American medicine is largely shaped by works on Europeans’ changing attitudes toward native medicine as well as European attempts to obtain Native knowledge about particular botanical remedies. As the primary sources listed in Diaries and Correspondence demonstrate, an early European regard, even reverence, for native medicinal knowledge in the 16th and 17th centuries gave way to descriptions of personal experience and therefore (European) authority in the 18th century. The most likely reason for this transformation was the highly secretive nature of native medicinal knowledge: Europeans tried for many years to obtain this knowledge, but native people in the Americas proved reluctant to share it. The lengths to which Europeans went to acquire such knowledge, as well as their varying levels of success and failure in doing so, are described in Bleichmar’s and Schiebinger’s essays in Schiebinger and Swan 2005. Another reason for the turn away from Native knowledge was the development of racism, as Chaplin 2001 argues. Murphy 2011 contends that although Europeans wrote “dismissively” of indigenous medicinal knowledge by the 18th century, they still sought out native healers and their remedies. As Murphy points out, by the 18th century “indigenous” medical knowledge was comprised of both African and American Indian knowledge, primarily of plants and botanical medicines, but also included healing practices. Schiebinger 2009 also discusses this melding of African and American knowledge, with a dose of French and British techniques in the Caribbean, and Wisecup 2013 examines the changing medical ideas and practices of Native Americans, Africans, and European colonists in North America. These three groups, Wisecup argues, both shared and withheld medical knowledge from one another as the medical traditions of all mingled and changed from the 16th through the 18th centuries. As Schiebinger 2004 also demonstrates, there were political dimensions to knowledge-sharing, and sometimes even when Europeans gathered botanical knowledge from natives, not all of this knowledge made it back to Europe. One additional strain of literature considers Native Americans and epidemics during the colonial period, particularly smallpox. Jones 2004 discusses Native and European views of epidemic illnesses, arguing that early European attitudes toward illness had significant religious components, an important but often overlooked dimension of early European approaches to healing across the Atlantic world.

  • Chaplin, Joyce E. Subject Matter: Technology, and Body, and Science on the Anglo-American Frontier, 1500–1676. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001.

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    Most Native American remedies that Europeans encountered were botanical, Chaplin writes, and in the early years of settlement they respected these remedies a great deal. Later, though, Europeans rejected them as inferior but remained deeply curious about them. Overall looks at interactions between natives and Europeans, the natural world, and emerging conceptions of race.

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  • Jones, David S. Rationalizing Epidemics: Meanings and Uses of American Indian Mortality since 1600. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004.

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    Jones focuses on Native American and European interpretations of epidemics over time; examines changing understandings of illness and the spread of disease as spiritual and/or human-driven. A section on 17th-century New England is of particular interest. Also see Epidemics.

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  • Murphy, Kathleen S. “Translating the Vernacular: Indigenous and African Knowledge in the Eighteenth-Century British Atlantic.” Atlantic Studies 8.1 (2011): 29–48.

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    European colonists wanted Native American knowledge of medicinal properties of local plants; by the 18th century this knowledge itself had adjusted as part of a changing world and incorporated some African remedies as well. Discusses tensions between Europeans’ desire for this knowledge and refusal to acknowledge that they found it highly useful.

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  • Schiebinger, Londa. Plants and Empire: Colonial Bioprospecting in the Atlantic World. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004.

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    Examines Atlantic botanical collecting, many for medicinal purposes, from the late 17th century to the early 19th century. Special focus on the efforts of Hans Sloane (British) who traveled to Jamaica and on Maria Sibylla Merian (Dutch) who traveled to Surinam. Discusses the plants and drugs they gathered, catalogued, and drew, as part of wider Atlantic world botanical gathering expedition, and explains how some knowledge transferred and other information (such as abortifacients) did not.

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  • Schiebinger, Londa. “Scientific Exchange in the Eighteenth-Century Atlantic World.” In Soundings in Atlantic History: Latent Structures and Intellectual Currents, 1500–1830. Edited by Bernard Bailyn and Patricia L. Denault, 294–328. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009.

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    On the partial transfer of knowledge among Amerindian, African, and European (French and British) medical practitioners in the West Indies. European physicians valued native and African medicinal knowledge but had limited access to it. Details a 1773 experiment with different cures for yaws in Saint Domingue and Jamaica.

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  • Schiebinger, Londa, and Claudia Swan, eds. Colonial Botany: Science, Commerce, and Politics in the Early Modern World. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005.

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    Daniela Bleichmar’s essay in this collection examines Nicolás Monardes’s work and the importance of materia medica across the Atlantic. Explains that some natives freely revealed medical knowledge to European travelers (and they to Monardes), but other knowledge was closely guarded and much more difficult to obtain. Schiebinger’s essay examines some of the difficulties Europeans had in trying to obtain medical knowledge from native people in the West Indies, including language and culture.

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  • Wisecup, Kelly. Medical Encounters: Knowledge and Identity in Early American Literatures. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2013.

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    Through a literary analysis of texts from 16th- through 18th-century Virginia, New England, and the Caribbean, Wisecup examines the changing medical ideas and practices of Native Americans, Africans, and European colonists. At times the traditions of one group informed those of another directly, while at other points treatments (such as herbal medicines) adjusted as they crossed and incorporated various cultures.

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African Medicine and Obeah

The scholarship on African medicine in the Atlantic during the 17th and 18th centuries has expanded significantly in the last decade. One strand of this work (such as Murphy 2011 and Schiebinger 2009, cited under Native American Medicine) discusses the interchange of ideas, practices, and remedies among Africans, Europeans, and indigenous populations in the Americas. Another branch of scholarship has begun to expand in recent years and focuses more specifically on African traditions in the Americas even as these traditions morphed and developed in Atlantic societies (what Voeks 1993 terms “ethnomedical blending”). A significant component of this scholarship discusses obeah, which until recently has been classified more with religion than with medicine, though the practice is more multi-dimensional than either of these categories allows. Obeah encompasses both spiritual and healing techniques and practices, especially as it developed in its creole form (Murray 2007). Thanks to the work of historians and anthropologists, recent scholarship has recognized obeah’s medical significance, particularly in the Caribbean. Handler 2000 shows strong evidence demonstrating the medical properties of obeah; the author argues that even as the term “obeah” fell out of favor among white planters, they simply called former obeah practitioners doctors. Paton 2012 details the criminalization of obeah during the 18th century, showing the different fears it provoked in British and French colonies. White residents in British colonies feared obeah’s magical powers as witchcraft, particularly after Tacky’s Revolt in 1760. Growing fear of obeah’s power to encourage and fortify slave revolts led the British to prohibit obeah. French colonists, on the other hand, feared poisonings and saw obeah as a dangerous spiritual practice with the power to both poison French West Indian residents and subvert the system of slavery. The anti-obeah legislation throughout Caribbean colonies developed differently, but in each case fear drove the creation of such laws, as Handler and Bilby 2012 demonstrate on a case-by-case basis. Yet European planters also recognized obeah practitioners’ healing powers and sometimes sought their cures themselves (Bryson 2013), while enslaved patients overwhelmingly preferred obeah healers to European practitioners (Bryson 2013, De Barros 2004). In fact, enslaved healers and herbalists served a variety of functions in slave societies, as De Barros 2004 points out, and were often the primary doctors in slave hospitals. As Wisecup 2013 argues, even after the criminalization of obeah, white doctors continued to try to obtain medical knowledge from obeah practitioners, a strong indication that they recognized its healing power. But obeah could harm as well as heal, and Browne 2011 demonstrates the ways in which violence of obeah practitioners inspired fear as well as respect among enslaved communities.

  • Browne, Randy M. “The ‘Bad Business’ of Obeah: Power, Authority, and the Politics of Slave Culture in the British Caribbean.” William and Mary Quarterly 68.3 (2011): 451–480.

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    Demonstrates obeah’s mixed capacities for harm as well as healing among enslaved populations in early 19th-century Berbice. Obeah incited both fear and respect among enslaved Africans and their descendants, and obeah practitioners could be violent and intimidating as well as curative.

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  • Bryson, Sasha Turner. “The Art of Power: Poison and Obeah Accusations and the Struggle for Dominance and Survival in Jamaica’s Slave Society.” Caribbean Studies 41.2 (2013): 61–90.

    DOI: 10.1353/crb.2013.0030Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Shows how enslaved practitioners used obeah to influence planters and colonial society by examining 18th- and 19th-century accusations of obeah (and court cases) in Jamaica.

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  • De Barros, Juanita. “‘Setting Things Right’: Medicine and Magic in British Guiana, 1803–1838.” Slavery and Abolition 25.1 (2004): 28–50.

    DOI: 10.1080/0144039042000220919Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Describes the medical function of obeah for enslaved people in the early 19th century and shows the diverse roles of enslaved healers as herbalists, diviners, and “sorcerer-healers,” much as they had been in Africa. Shows the close ties of Afro-Caribbean medicine to West and Central Africa.

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  • Handler, Jerome S. “Slave Medicine and Obeah in Barbados, circa 1650 to 1834.” New West Indian Guide 74.1–2 (2000): 57–90.

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    One of the most thorough examinations of the practice of obeah under slavery, Handler’s article demonstrates the ways in which enslaved communities in the Caribbean incorporated and adapted traditional African healing practices to plantation slavery and developed Afro-Caribbean medicine.

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  • Handler, Jerome S., and Kenneth M. Bilby. Enacting Power: The Criminalization of Obeah in the Anglophone Caribbean, 1760–2011. Mona, Jamaica: University of the West Indies Press, 2012.

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    Makes a strong case for seeing obeah as a medical practice, while recognizing the various roles its practitioners played. Discusses the development of anti-obeah legislation and includes sections on each colonial island plus Belize and Guiana.

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  • Murray, Deryck. “Three Worships, an Old Warlock and Many Lawless Forces: The Court Trial of an African Doctor Who Practised ‘Obeah to Cure’, in Early Nineteenth Century Jamaica.” Journal of South African Studies 33.4 (2007): 811–828.

    DOI: 10.1080/03057070701646928Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Explains obeah as an African-derived creole creation combining religion and medicine, healing and divining. Argues that obeah has no strict dichotomy between religion and medicine, something Africans understood but that Britons could not.

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  • Paton, Diana. “Witchcraft, Poison, Law, and Atlantic Slavery.” William and Mary Quarterly 69.2 (2012): 235–264.

    DOI: 10.5309/willmaryquar.69.2.0235Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Shows the way anti-obeah sentiment developed in British and French Caribbean; both saw it as a spiritual power against slavery (British more through magic and French more through poison) though both also recognized its power to heal.

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  • Voeks, Robert. “African Medicine and Magic in the Americas.” Geographical Review 83.1 (1993): 66–78.

    DOI: 10.2307/215381Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Discusses the continuation and adaptation of African traditions in the Americas, arguing that these were strongest in colonies with a continued influx of African-born slaves and with Catholic rather than Protestant Europeans. Includes Afro-creole cures such as fasting, seclusion, observing taboos, spiritual cleansing, and the use of medicinal plants.

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  • Wisecup, Kelly. “Knowing Obeah.” Atlantic Studies 10.3 (2013): 406–425.

    DOI: 10.1080/14788810.2013.809228Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Analyzing the writing of contemporary planters, natural historians, and physicians about obeah, Wisecup shows how Caribbean colonists went from respecting obeah’s medical healing powers to denouncing it as witchcraft, even if they continued to seek it out in private.

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European Medicine

There are three main components to European medicine in the early modern period. First, Galenic approaches to medicine began to decline. Galenic medicine approached the body as a carefully calibrated balance of internal humors with external elements. According to this line of thought, an imbalance in the body caused illness, so most illnesses could be cured by restoring the body’s balance in some way (expelling excesses through bleeding or purging, for instance). Historians who see the Galenic tradition in decline during the 17th and 18th centuries argue that physicians changed their thinking, but the practices themselves did not change significantly; Stolberg 2011, for example, explains that for physicians good health required the continuous movement of fluids and vapors between the inner body and the outside, and illness was caused by “blockages” and “corruptions” trapped inside the body. The ways physicians attempted to remove such blockages, such as administering purges, tended to be less than pleasant: they ranged from herbal remedies to chemicals and metals, often including mercury and other poisons. As Porter 2001 points out, these treatments often “worked” in the sense that they forced a patient’s body to empty itself, but they were not particularly effective in other ways. Physicians gave patients emetics and laxatives; forced them to sweat, bleed, and vomit; and administered blisters (encouraging the secretion of “putrid matter”). Less painfully, patients ingested herbal concoctions such as rhubarb, jalap, and tobacco, and doctors applied salves to wounds (Weisser 2015). Second, Harrison 2010 demonstrates the growing significance of environmental medicine among British medical practitioners over the 17th and 18th centuries. According to this belief, people’s bodies responded to their immediate surroundings. This conception of environmental health led to growing efforts to modify environments and create healthy living conditions. Some scholars see the rise of environmental conceptions of health as part of a Hippocratic revival (Riley 1987). Finally, although different places within Europe often had their own discrete medical practices, during this period both knowledge and practices spread readily across European boundaries. Cipolla 1992 argues that the adoption of public health measures in Britain and France followed earlier efforts in the Italian peninsula as officials tried to clean up streets and encourage air flow. This exchange of information also led to a departure from the gruesome picture of Western European medicine. Cook 2007 argues that by the 17th century the Dutch had begun to incorporate medical traditions from across the empire, both east and west, and the Netherlands was an early adopter of a botanical medicinal garden, with England and France not far behind.

  • Brockliss, Laurence, and Colin Jones. The Medical World of Early Modern France. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.

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    A comprehensive overview of illness, medicine, and medical treatment in France from the 17th through the 19th centuries.

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  • Cipolla, Carlo M. Miasmas and Disease: Public Health and the Environment in the Pre-Industrial Age. Translated by Elizabeth Potter. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1992.

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    This concise book argues that British adoption of public health measures in the 19th century, particularly cleaning up the environment to promote healthy living, were modeled after earlier such measures elsewhere in Europe, especially in Italy.

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  • Cook, Harold J. Matters of Exchange: Commerce, Medicine, and Science in the Dutch Golden Age. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2007.

    DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300117967.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    By the 17th century, Cook argues, Dutch medicine was already “worldly” as the empire was at its height and incorporated medical traditions from both east and west. Includes development of a botanical garden, in large part for medicinal purposes.

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  • Harrison, Mark. Medicine in an Age of Commerce and Empire: Britain and Its Tropical Colonies, 1660–1830. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199577736.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Discussion of several British physicians, their education, and their training, largely in the Indies (East as well as West). Argues that these physicians—and eventually British medicine—transformed as a result of these practitioners’ experiences in the colonies. Bibliography contains an extensive list of published primary sources on the medicine of warm climates. Also see Military Medicine and Atlantic Crossings.

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  • Porter, Roy. Bodies Politic: Disease, Death, and Doctors in Britain, 1650–1900. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2001.

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    Argues that in the mid-17th century English medicine was crude and often ineffective or dangerous. Describes the common medical practices of expelling “toxic substances from the body” in various ways and through all kinds of concoctions, several of which were poisonous substances.

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  • Riley, James. The Eighteenth-Century Campaign to Avoid Disease. New York: St. Martin’s, 1987.

    DOI: 10.1007/978-1-349-18616-7Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Riley argues that the 18th century in Europe witnessed the beginning of preventative medicine, particularly as physicians urged people to avoid unhealthy conditions that might provoke or create disease. Physicians, who believed in a strong link between “bad air” and poor health, sought to manage the environment through drainage and ventilation to prevent epidemics. Also see Public Health.

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  • Stolberg, Michael. Experiencing Illness and the Sick Body in Early Modern Europe. Translated by Leonhard Unglaub and Logan Kennedy. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011.

    DOI: 10.1057/9780230355842Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Stolberg argues that medical practitioners in early modern Europe believed that good health depended upon a continuous flow of fluids, both within the body and between the body and the outside world. Stolberg discusses the application of these ideas through practices, such as bloodletting, that encouraged the movement of bodily fluids.

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  • Weisser, Olivia. Ill Composed: Sickness, Gender, and Belief in Early Modern England. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2015.

    DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300200706.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    In the 17th century, English men and women believed that illness was a result of obstructed or imbalanced humors, and treatments were designed to release these humors from the body (through artificial wounds, enemas, bleeding, vomiting, sweating, etc.). Discusses various treatments as well as differences between male and female patients.

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Public Health

Over the course of the 18th century, approaches to medicine and disease began to shift across the Atlantic world. The emerging field of public health was one such shift, and it took several forms. In Europe, a belief in environmental medicine, or the idea that people’s bodies responded directly to their environments, led medical practitioners to worry about an increasingly crowded and industrial environment. Physicians who had long prescribed fresh air to their wealthier patients began to advocate cleaning up city environments in a push toward preventative medicine: if people’s surroundings were healthy, the inhabitants themselves would be healthy. Jankovic 2010 discusses the perception of illness as related to the environment and the act of controlling or changing the environment as preventative medicine in Britain. Riley 1987 also argues that a medical approach of avoiding diseases, rather than treating them as they occurred, gained traction during the 18th century, and Finger 2012 notes a full-scale effort to promote public health in Philadelphia by planning the city with open squares that encouraged air circulation. The second major form of preventative medicine during the 18th century was a shift toward individual behavior. Jankovic 2010 discusses such a shift in the British context, while Burnard and Follett 2012 examines behavioral proscriptions and individual responsibility for health in the Caribbean. Burnard and Follett sees the West Indies as a site of particular interest, in part because physicians concerned themselves with the rampant spread of venereal disease. European physicians tried to curtail sex in the Caribbean, particularly that between white men and black women, as a way of controlling public health in both the British and French contexts (Burnard and Follett 2012, Quinlan 2005) and began to blame individuals when they became ill through sexual contact. An additional development in the advent of public health was the gradual transformation of hospitals from places of certain disease and death, or nearly hospices, to places where physicians (rather than religious figures) attended patients. Weiner 1993 discusses this shift in 18th-century France, along with the emergence of patients’ rights; Finger 2012 also notes the growth of the Philadelphia hospital as a modern institution. In contrast, Hogarth 2016 and Kenny 2010 both demonstrate the development of slave hospitals as places of control rather than healing, where white physicians controlled black bodies outside of the plantation, sometimes using them for medical experiments and sometimes simply using hospitals as a form of prison or detention center. In each case, hospitals as institutions underwent significant changes during this period.

  • Burnard, Trevor, and Richard Follett. “Caribbean Slavery, British Anti-Slavery, and the Cultural Politics of Venereal Disease.” Historical Journal 55.2 (2012): 427–451.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0018246X11000513Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Discusses the development of a moral component of illness, particularly in the case of venereal disease in the West Indies, including its treatment and the stigmatization of patients.

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  • Finger, Simon. The Contagious City: The Politics of Public Health in Early Philadelphia. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2012.

    DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9780801448935.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Examines the creation and expansion of Philadelphia as being at the forefront of the American public health movement in the colonial and revolutionary period; includes sections on the development of the Pennsylvania Hospital (as a new, sanitary, place for patients); campaigns for a sanitary city and public spaces; the sharing of scientific knowledge between Britons and Americans; and argues that the Revolutionary War was instrumental in American experiences with health and medicine.

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  • Hogarth, Rana. “Charity and Terror in Eighteenth-Century Jamaica: The Kingston Hospital and Asylum for Deserted ‘Negroes.’” African and Black Diaspora (March 2016): 1–18.

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    Examines a hospital in Jamaica as a site of racial control and exploitation and argues that this bodily surveillance extended beyond that particular hospital to others in the Atlantic world.

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  • Jankovic, Vladimir. Confronting the Climate: British Airs and the Making of Environmental Medicine. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010.

    DOI: 10.1057/9780230113466Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Discusses a growing connection between health and the environment on a large scale in Britain, as well as a moralistic and behavioral component of individual responsibility for health.

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  • Kenny, Stephen. “‘A Dictate of both Interest and Mercy?’: Antebellum Slave Hospitals.” Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Science 65.1 (2010): 1–47.

    DOI: 10.1093/jhmas/jrp019Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Argues that enslaved patients played a crucial role in the development of medicine in the American south, particularly as white doctors practiced on their bodies. Demonstrates the role hospitals held as places of white authority and supervision over black bodies. Also see The American South.

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  • Quinlan, Sean. “Colonial Bodies, Hygiene, and Abolitionist Politics in Eighteenth-Century France.” In Bodies in Contact: Rethinking Colonial Encounters in World History. Edited by Antoinette Burton and Tony Ballantyne, 106–121. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2005.

    DOI: 10.1215/9780822386452-007Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Quinlan focuses on behavioral proscriptions for French men in the West Indies during the 18th century. To maintain virility, masculinity, and French honor the men should avoid unhealthy conditions, particularly “excessive” behaviors of all sorts (drinking, dancing, and, especially, sex with Afro-Caribbean women).

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  • Riley, James. The Eighteenth-Century Campaign to Avoid Disease. New York: St. Martin’s, 1987.

    DOI: 10.1007/978-1-349-18616-7Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Discusses the advent of medical ideas to modify the environment to create healthy conditions for the general populace, rather than treating individuals after they become ill; physicians wanted the deliberate and active prevention of epidemics through environmental management (such as drainage, ventilation, etc.). Also see European Medicine.

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  • Weiner, Dora B. The Citizen-Patient in Revolutionary and Imperial Paris. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993.

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    Examines changes in health care, particularly public health and the reforms of the revolution in Paris, as well as the emergence of the concept of health care as a citizen’s right.

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Slavery and the Slave Trade

Slavery and medicine is an enormous topic with significant overlaps in other sections (see especially entries on the American South, as well as the Iberian and French Atlantic). Yet there is still much work to be done on the subject. Sheridan 1985, though at this point dated, formed the core of literature on medicine and slavery for years; as such it is included here as foundational reading. Sheridan’s study of physicians’ treatment of enslaved laborers on plantations focused largely on particular diseases and their cures; Sowande’ Mustakeem’s more recent works expand this line of thought with descriptions of illnesses and treatments on board slave ships (Mustakeem 2008, Mustakeem 2016). Health conditions on these ships were abysmal, and illnesses killed large numbers of enslaved people during the Middle Passage. They suffered from smallpox, venereal diseases, “the flux,” and scurvy, among many other ailments (Mustakeem 2008). European-trained physicians encountered unfamiliar diseases, sometimes treating them within the confines of their training (often without much success) and at times attempting to procure new cures. Some ship surgeons took advantage of the opportunity to collect botanical specimens on their travels (Murphy 2013), though rarely did enslaved people have a say in their treatment while aboard ship. Once on a plantation, conditions sometimes changed. Histories of particular plantations in Jamaica reveal a wide array of illnesses and causes of death, along with high rates of both (Craton 1976, Thornton 2011). In most cases, enslaved people preferred to rely on the healing abilities of herbal practitioners using African traditions, and sometimes even planters and European-trained physicians believed that African practices were more effective than European ones. Such practices tended to treat the whole body, without separating medicinal from spiritual treatments, and as such Euro-Americans viewed them with an element of distrust even as they acknowledged their power (Fett 2002). Frequently European healers tried to obtain medical knowledge, especially of the botanical kind, from African or Amerindian healers, though their attempts were not always successful (Parrish 2008). Instead, enslaved healers sometimes shared their expertise but at other times kept it closely guarded, earning power as well as the respect and frustration of Euro-Americans.

  • Craton, Michael. “Death, Disease and Medicine on the Jamaican Slave Plantations: The Example of Worthy Park 1767–1838.” Histoire Sociale/Social History 9.18 (November 1976): 237–255.

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    Craton analyzes the causes of death in 401 cases on Jamaican plantation over several decades, including old age, fever, flux, dropsy, and yaws, among others, and finds differences in causes of death based upon environment, birthplace, and type of plantation.

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  • Fett, Sharla M. Working Cures: Healing, Health, and Power on Southern Slave Plantations. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002.

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    This excellent study discusses herbal medicine, the skills of enslaved female medical practitioners, and race. Fett argues that a separation between the sacred and the medical is a false dichotomy and that both illnesses and treatments figured into an overall religious, environmental, and medical cosmology in plantation societies. Also see The American South.

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  • Murphy, Kathleen S. “Collecting Slave Traders: James Petiver, Natural History, and the British Slave Trade.” William and Mary Quarterly 70.4 (2013): 637–670.

    DOI: 10.5309/willmaryquar.70.4.0637Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    In the late 17th and early 18th centuries, naturalist James Petiver acquired a sizeable collection of plants, medicinal and otherwise, from travelers like slave ship surgeons. Requesting specimens from the travelers’ voyages, Petiver compiled extensive natural (and medical) knowledge of plants from around the Atlantic.

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  • Mustakeem, Sowande’. “‘I Never Have Such a Sickly Ship Before’: Diet, Disease, and Mortality in 18th-Century Atlantic Slaving Voyages.” Journal of African American History 93.4 (2008): 474–496.

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    Gives an account of many of the diseases and illnesses people suffered on board slave ships during the middle passage. Mustakeem discusses the deadliness of the slave trade and middle passage and includes sections on particular illnesses suffered on board ship (including smallpox, venereal diseases, “the flux,” and scurvy), along with some remedies for these diseases.

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  • Mustakeem, Sowande’ M. Slavery at Sea: Terror, Sex, and Sickness in the Middle Passage. Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 2016.

    DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252040559.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    An in-depth look at the conditions on slave ships in the Middle Passage, primarily during the 18th century, Mustakeem’s work addresses the health conditions aboard ships as well as some of the remedies ships’ surgeons employed to treat various illnesses. Chapter 6 goes into special depth on diseases and treatments; it is similar to Mustakeem’s article on the subject (Mustakeem 2008).

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  • Parrish, Susan Scott. “Diasporic African Sources of Enlightenment Knowledge.” In Science and Empire in the Atlantic World. Edited by James Delbourgo and Nicholas Dew, 281–310. New York: Routledge, 2008.

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    European colonists in the Americas both sought out and feared the knowledge, primarily botanical and often medical, of enslaved people. Colonists believed that enslaved people held powerful knowledge about medicinal plants’ potential to harm as well as heal, and planters often relied upon enslaved medical practitioners to treat people on plantations. Enslaved people themselves tended to favor enslaved healers, who understood the holistic nature of their illnesses.

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  • Sheridan, Richard B. Doctors and Slaves: A Medical and Demographic History of Slavery in the British West Indies, 1680–1834. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1985.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511759864Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Sheridan writes about the diseases that affected enslaved Africans in the British West Indies during the 18th and 19th centuries. The discussion of treatment is heavily weighted toward European-trained physicians and medicine, though Sheridan does bring in evidence when possible of African medical techniques.

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  • Thornton, Amanda. “Coerced Care: Thomas Thistlewood’s Account of Medical Practice on Enslaved Populations in Colonial Jamaica, 1751–1786.” Slavery and Abolition 32.4 (2011): 535–599.

    DOI: 10.1080/0144039X.2011.604563Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Examines the illnesses and health of one planter’s enslaved laborers in 18th-century Jamaica; also contains tables on rates of sickness and death among plantation inhabitants.

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The American South

The literature on medicine in the American South is particularly rich. Medical practitioners used a wide variety of herbal remedies, following traditions of African, European, and Native American medicines. European-trained physicians bled and purged as their forbearers had done, but because they had less access to metals and chemicals and more access to a cornucopia of plants, their remedies tended to be slightly less harsh and more experimental. Recipes for cures could be makeshift and dependent on the availability of ingredients but also sometimes incorporated indigenous and/or African knowledge. Moss 1999 describes some of the remedies for various illnesses physicians used in “backcountry” South Carolina, and Fett 2002 argues in her excellent work on southern slave plantations that plant medicines formed the central component of rural household health care. A blend of African cultural knowledge and plantation life shaped the herbal practices of enslaved healers, and these healers in turn “significantly influenced the herbal repertoire of southern white households” (Fett 2002, p. 60). Enslaved women were particularly skilled in certain types of healing, as both Fett and Schwartz 2006 demonstrate. Like obeah practitioners in the Caribbean, Schwartz argues that enslaved healers did not draw sharp distinctions between the body and the spirit in their diagnoses or treatment of patients. Race and class form crucial components in the literature on southern medicine, as blacks and lower-class whites tended to use domestic medicine and home remedies almost exclusively, while upper-class whites had access to university-trained doctors. The development of public health, though, was slower in the south than in the north, in part because cities were less developed. Essays on these developments, as well as on physicians’ training, domestic medical manuals, black folk medicine, and more, can be found in the edited collection Numbers and Savitt 1989. In another work, Savitt 1978 addresses Virginia planters’ claims about differing black and white health to justify slavery. Savitt, as McCandless 2011 does for South Carolina, largely dismisses these claims as nothing more than “a defense for slavery.” Savitt applies biology and his medical training to argue that ideas about differing black and white health in Virginia were merely racism in disguise, though as Kenny 2010 shows, racism and slavery had significant consequences for medical treatment.

  • Fett, Sharla M. Working Cures: Healing, Health, and Power on Southern Slave Plantations. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002.

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    This excellent study discusses herbal medicine, the skills of enslaved female medical practitioners, and race. Fett argues that a separation between the sacred and the medical is a false dichotomy and that both illnesses and treatments figured into an overall religious, environmental, and medical cosmology in plantation societies. Also see Slavery and the Slave Trade.

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  • Kenny, Stephen. “‘A Dictate of Both Interest and Mercy?’: Antebellum Slave Hospitals.” Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Science 65.1 (2010): 1–47.

    DOI: 10.1093/jhmas/jrp019Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Examines the creation of slave hospitals as places of containment, segregation, and supervision over the enslaved, while white doctors developed their knowledge and skills by practicing on enslaved patients. Also see Public Health.

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  • Long, Gretchen. Doctoring Freedom: The Politics of African American Medical Care in Slavery and Emancipation. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2012.

    DOI: 10.5149/9780807837399_longSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The first chapter of this book, which covers the 19th century, provides an interesting view on the tension between white and black medical care of slaves.

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  • McCandless, Peter. Slavery, Disease, and Suffering in the Southern Lowcountry. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511977428Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    McCandless examines disease in the Lowcountry from the 17th through the late 19th century. He argues that most Carolina disease environments, such as rice paddies, which encourage malarial mosquitoes to breed rampantly, were human creations that affected the health of both blacks and whites across the Lowcountry.

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  • Moss, Kay K. Southern Folk Medicine, 1750–1820. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1999.

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    Discusses domestic European-based medicine in Carolina, including an overview of general therapies, recipes for cordials, pills, and mixtures, a discussion of various illnesses, injuries, disorders, and their treatments, as well as listing the usual ingredients of a home practitioner.

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  • Numbers, Ronald L., and Todd L. Savitt, eds. Science and Medicine in the Old South. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1989.

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    The essays in this collection, which mostly cover the early 19th century, examine slavery and the environment; physicians and medical education; the development of public health, especially as it related to yellow fever and cholera; mental health; domestic medical manuals; and black folk medicine.

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  • Savitt, Todd L. Medicine and Slavery: The Diseases and Health Care of Blacks in Antebellum Virginia. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1978.

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    Savitt dismisses various historians’ and physicians’ claims about differing black and white health conditions as excuses for racial slavery. Other chapters analyze the living conditions on plantations as well as in urban areas during the early 19th century and discuss the diseases that infected inhabitants, as well as some of their cures.

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  • Schwartz, Marie Jenkins. Birthing a Slave: Motherhood and Medicine in the Antebellum South. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006.

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    Examines some of the differences between treatments of Euro-American doctors and enslaved healers, arguing that enslaved patients vastly preferred enslaved practitioners’ treatments that recognized the connectivity between medicine and spirituality, the physical and the emotional. Focuses especially on women’s reproductive health.

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New England

Questions of religion form one of the primary tensions in the scholarship on medicine in colonial New England. The Puritan influence was strong in 17th-century New England, and most Euro-American residents viewed life through a Puritan lens. Illness, disease, and healing, therefore, had some amount of religious causation (Silva 2011): people would pray for the sick, for example, and if a patient was cured, her or his family often gave some credit to the power of their prayers. Native healing practices also contained a spiritual element, but because 17th-century indigenous societies did not practice Christianity, let alone Puritanism, colonists were suspicious of this spirituality. As a result, the healing knowledge colonists sought from natives was limited to the medicinal usage of plants. The colonists hoped to apply medical plants in their own healing rituals, but for the natives this made little sense, as the application of medicine was directly tied to the healing practice itself. Natives and Europeans exchanged some remedies, as Breslaw 2012 explains, but often they did not, particularly as Puritans drew sharp lines between their own religious practices and those practiced by others, which they often considered closer to witchcraft than religion. Fear of witchcraft was pervasive in medical practice, even within New England communities of European descent. Tannenbaum 2002 portrays a New England medical world divided relatively strictly along lines of class and gender. Herbal remedies, midwifery, and other domestic medicine were women’s domain, while surgery and bleeding were male-dominated practices. Some women had extensive medical experience, but if they practiced too openly (e.g., bone-setting), they risked being denounced as witches. By the late 18th century, medical practice had separated in large part from religion and had become largely male-dominated, though women still performed domestic medicine (Priewe 2014). Even so, many New Englanders called upon female healers for a variety of medical ailments, and Ulrich 1991 shows that women sometimes worked closely with male physicians while at other times they operated independently. The revolutionary era also ushered in an expanding new age of public health (Abrams 2013).

  • Abrams, Jeanne E. Revolutionary Medicine: The Founding Fathers and Mothers in Sickness and in Health. New York: New York University Press, 2013.

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    Abrams’s book on health and medicine in the Revolutionary era gives an overview of late 18th-century understandings of sicknesses and their treatments in colonial British North America. Abrams concentrates largely on the family medical history of the “founding families” and uses their experiences with sickness and health to tell a larger story about the development of public health in the Revolutionary era.

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  • Breslaw, Elaine G. Lotions, Potions, Pills, and Magic: Health Care in Early America. New York: New York University Press, 2012.

    DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9780814787175.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Breslaw’s book contains chapters on subjects ranging from smallpox in New England and yellow fever in Philadelphia to midwifery and birth. Breslaw’s focus is on European medical traditions, and on their changing applications in colonial America. She discusses Native American medical traditions such as sweat baths and spiritual healing, as well as the cross-cultural medical usage of plant medicines like Dogwood and cinchona bark.

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  • Priewe, Marc. Textualizing Illness: Medicine and Culture in New England, 1620–1730. Heidelberg, Germany: Universitätsverlag Winter, 2014.

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    Discusses the intersections of religion and medicine in 17th-century New England among both English colonists and natives, arguing that by the 18th-century Euro-American medicine had largely lost its religious component in favor of secular approaches to health and medicine.

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  • Silva, Cristobal. Miraculous Plagues: An Epidemiology of Early New England Narrative. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199743476.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Silva’s work focuses on 17th-century New England, where the author examines vectors of disease, particularly smallpox and other “herd diseases” as they affected both Native Americans and Euro-American settlers. During this period, religion and spirituality were central to illness and healing in both cultures. Also see Epidemics.

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  • Tannenbaum, Rebecca J. The Healer’s Calling: Women and Medicine in Early New England. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2002.

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    Examines gendered tasks of healers, and discusses the importance of domestic medicine, including knowledge of how to prepare cordials and when to apply them. Finds communities and networks of female healers through New England.

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  • Ulrich, Laurel Thatcher. A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785–1812. New York: Knopf, 1991.

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    Through a thorough examination of the diary of Martha Ballard, a healer in Maine, Ulrich demonstrates the variety of medical functions female healers performed in addition to midwifery. They nursed patients, diagnosed illnesses, and administered medicines, and they often worked cooperatively with male physicians in treating patients and in sharing medical knowledge.

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The French Atlantic

Plants play a central role in much of the work on medicine in the French Atlantic. From Jesuits in Canada to planters in the Caribbean, residents of the French Atlantic sought local knowledge of botanical remedies as well as the plants themselves. Sometimes they appropriated and spread this knowledge, as Parsons 2016 demonstrates in the case of the ginseng plant. One Jesuit learned several uses for the plant from North American natives and reported its effectiveness in the treatment of such varying complaints as dysentery, rheumatism, fever, and the bloody flux. But not everyone had such luck acquiring medicinal knowledge, and others, like French planters in the Caribbean, relied upon native and African healers to cure them of their ills because those healers refused to share their knowledge. Bougerol 1985 explains that during the 17th and 18th centuries planters highly valued African and native healers and their medicines, specifically seeking them out whenever possible. The secretive nature of botanical remedies, though, frustrated planters and provoked their fear of poison, and by the middle of the 18th century their fear grew so strong that they enacted a series of laws prohibiting the transmission of botanical knowledge from natives to Africans or between Africans and forbidding French residents from consulting African healers. Weaver 2006 also discusses the dual role of enslaved healers as both healers and poisoners, as the creators of an Afro-Caribbean health-care system and as powerful herbalists with a secretive and mysterious knowledge of plants and poisons. Planters’ fear of poisons also drove intensive botanical research among an elite circle of medical men who cultivated botanical gardens, as McClellan 1992 points out. Eighteenth-century Saint Domingue became a center of scientific developments and medicinal experimentation, in large part driven by French residents’ efforts to combat poisoning. By the 19th century, though, the Haitian Revolution had stoked planters’ increasing fears of enslaved healers even as military physicians sought local knowledge in treating diseases that afflicted soldiers (Nobi 2016). In 19th-century Martinique, Savage 2007 argues that a rash of poisoning accusations demonstrated white residents’ lack of understanding of African medicine and practices. They believed that African healers were part of a network of African “sorcerers and ‘black magicians’ who had special knowledge of poisoning” (Savage 2007, p. 639). In the French Atlantic, then, natives and Africans consistently struggled to keep their knowledge of botanical medicines private, thereby maintaining a degree of control and power. At the same time, French planters and residents just as consistently struggled with their desire for the superior healing power of native and African herbalists including (and sometimes especially) those who were enslaved, and their fear of poisoning from these same healers.

  • Bougerol, Christiane. “Medical Practices in the French West Indies: Master and Slave in the 17th and 18th centuries.” History and Anthropology 2 (1985): 125–143.

    DOI: 10.1080/02757206.1985.9960760Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    French planters valued African and native healers and medicines and relied upon their knowledge of plants, but in the 18th century a fear of poisoning began to take over so they enacted laws prohibiting “dangerous” practices. In doing so, French doctors drove out enslaved healers and ensured their own positions as medical specialists, since they could no longer bring themselves to acknowledge the Afro-Caribbean healers as such.

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  • McClellan, James E. III. Colonialism and Science: Saint Domingue in the Old Regime. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992.

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    Eighteenth-century Saint Domingue was a center of experimental botany, and the core of the medical academy the Cercle des Philadelphes. These physicians, surgeons, and medical men wanted to learn the use of plants as medicines, but McClellan also points out that colonial science and medicine supported colonial slavery as physicians dedicated a great deal of work to preserving the health of slaves.

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  • Nobi, Pierre. “Officiers de santé et soignantes créoles face à la fièvre jaune. Co-construction de savoirs médicaux dans le cadre de l’expédition de Saint-Domingue (1802–1803).” Special Issue: Guerre, maladie, empire. Edited by Roberto Zaugg. Histoire, médecine et santé 10 (December 2016): 45–62.

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    Examines the transfer of scientific and medical knowledge during the Haitian Revolution. Epidemics, particularly yellow fever, plagued French armed forces during the Revolution, and French doctors often relied upon locals in the Caribbean for their practical medical knowledge in treating European soldiers. Also see Military Medicine and Atlantic Crossings.

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  • Parsons, Christopher M. “The Natural History of Colonial Science: Joseph-François Lafitau’s Discovery of Ginseng and Its Afterlives.” William and Mary Quarterly 73.1 (2016): 37–72.

    DOI: 10.5309/willmaryquar.73.1.0037Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Parsons recounts how a Jesuit in North America found ginseng growing and learned some of its various uses from native people. The Jesuits circulated this indigenous knowledge across the Atlantic and Pacific worlds and soon gathered ginseng from a large swath of North America, intending to sell it in China where it was already used as a medicine.

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  • Savage, John. “‘Black Magic’ and White Terror: Slave Poisoning and Colonial Society in Early 19th Century Martinique.” Journal of Social History 40.3 (2007): 635–662.

    DOI: 10.1353/jsh.2007.0068Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Savage argues that white accusations of poison to some extent show that they misunderstood African herbalism, medicine, and religious practices. Rather than believing poisoning to be the work of an individual, French planters thought it was due to a network of spiritual and magical connections.

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  • Weaver, Karol. Medical Revolutionaries: The Enslaved Healers of Eighteenth-Century Saint Domingue. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2006.

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    Enslaved healers combined African traditions with Caribbean medicine (and plants) and some European traditions to form new West Indian medical treatments and approaches. Plantation health workers cured illnesses, provided herbal abortions, and created poisons for humans and animals. They thus inspired fear in the French and occupied positions of relative power in the colony.

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The Iberian Atlantic

Perhaps the most notable feature about histories of medicine in the Iberian Atlantic is the significant presence and authority of enslaved healers. Medical traditions in Spain and Portugal prior to colonization relied heavily on a humoral concept of the body (Earle 2012). Although Iberian physicians continued to view bodies in this way, medical practices began to change as practitioners incorporated botanical and other remedies from indigenous and enslaved healers in the colonies (Newson 2006). In some cases, Portuguese and Spanish physicians in the colonies actively sought out local knowledge of curative simples or compounds, although they tended to focus on acquiring particular specimens while ignoring or disregarding traditional practices (see Furtado 2008 and Walker 2013 on Brazil and Barrera 2002 on the commodification of natural resources, especially balsam, in Spanish America). In other cases, local authorities resisted imperial attempts to gather and control the resources of a particular place (see Crawford 2016 on quina). In all of these cases, though, Iberian medical practitioners valued the knowledge of local healers. Enslaved Africans also possessed medical knowledge that Iberian colonists valued. Newson 2006 points out that at first enslaved Africans were hindered in their abilities to procure and use local remedies because of the unfamiliar environment in the Americas, but Gómez 2013 and Gómez 2014 argue that during the 17th century, black healers, both enslaved and free, played key roles in treating patients of European, African, and indigenous descent. According to Gómez, many inhabitants of the Spanish Caribbean actively sought out the expertise and care of black healers. Various people both relied on these healers and worked to appropriate or acquire their medical knowledge. In Brazil, Sweet 2011 demonstrates that slaveholders—themselves of various ancestries—viewed enslaved practitioners in multiple ways. Describing the case of one particular healer, Sweet shows how colonial inhabitants of Brazil viewed African medical knowledge as both dangerous and curative and enslaved vodun priests/medical practitioners incited European suspicion as well as respect. On the whole, healers of African descent in the Iberian Atlantic possessed valuable medical knowledge and shaped the development of medicine there to a significant extent.

  • Barrera, Antonio. “Local Herbs, Global Medicines: Commerce, Knowledge, and Commodities in Spanish America.” In Merchants and Marvels: Commerce, Science, and Art in Early Modern Europe. Edited by Pamela H. Smith and Paula Findlen, 163–181. New York: Routledge, 2002.

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    Examining the case of Santo Domingo balsam, Barrera demonstrates the connections among empirical observation, knowledge production, and the commodification of natural resources in the Spanish Atlantic empire. He shows how the Spanish quest to procure balsam as a medical commodity contributed to the rise in empiricism as the primary means of gaining knowledge about the natural world, while explaining the imperial goals of exploitation and control of natural resources.

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  • Crawford, Matthew James. The Andean Wonder Drug: Cinchona Bark and Imperial Science in the Spanish Atlantic, 1630–1800. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2016.

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    Through the study of quina (cinchona bark) as a medicine, natural resource, and commodity, Crawford shows how Spanish imperial efforts to control the resources in its Atlantic empire did not always meet with success. The political and economic interests of knowledgeable local authorities throughout colonial regions rich in quina sometimes thwarted Spanish quests to acquire and control valuable botanical specimens.

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  • Earle, Rebecca. The Body of the Conquistador: Food, Race and the Colonial Experience in Spanish America, 1492–1700. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2012.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511763359Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Earle explains the centrality of humoralism to Spanish conceptions of the body during the early modern period. Food was crucial to these conceptions, as humors could be altered by ingestion and excretion. The difference in diet between Europeans and Amerindians, Earle argues, lay at the heart of Spanish conceptions of bodily difference, and humoralism proved essential to medical treatments in the colonies as well as in Europe.

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  • Furtado, Júnia Ferreira. “Tropical Empiricism: Making Medical Knowledge in Colonial Brazil.” In Science and Empire in the Atlantic World. Edited by James Delbourgo and Nicholas Dew, 127–151. New York: Routledge, 2008.

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    This chapter focuses on Portuguese and Dutch medical practitioners’ acquisition of medical knowledge in 17th- and 18th-century Brazil. Furtado argues that these physicians learned a great deal about medicinal treatments from indigenous and African inhabitants of Brazil, although they tended to separate medicinal “simples” or materia medica from traditional practices. Several of these physicians collected and published this medical knowledge in texts that circulated throughout Europe, changing European medical practices and helping to create the field of tropical medicine.

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  • Gómez, Pablo F. “The Circulation of Bodily Knowledge in the Seventeenth-Century Black Spanish Caribbean.” Social History of Medicine 26.3 (2013): 383–402.

    DOI: 10.1093/shm/hkt014Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Gómez argues that there were “multiple cultures of healing” in the early modern Caribbean, and that black healing techniques were part of mainstream medicinal practices. Rather than being marginal to the colonial medical world, healers of African descent played an essential role in cultures of health and healing and treated patients of all backgrounds.

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  • Gómez, Pablo F. “Incommensurable Epistemologies? The Atlantic Geography of Healing in the Early Modern Caribbean.” Small Axe 18.2 (2014): 95–107.

    DOI: 10.1215/07990537-2739875Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Starting with the Spanish Caribbean and moving across imperial boundaries, Gómez demonstrates first, the centrality of enslaved healers to the development of knowledge regarding medicine and the body, and, second, the vast sharing that took place among African, Native American, and European medical practitioners throughout the Atlantic world. Medical knowledge merged across cultures and healing practices developed as an amalgamation of this shared knowledge.

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  • Newson, Linda A. “Medical Practice in Early Colonial Spanish America: A Prospectus.” Bulletin of Latin American Research 25.3 (2006): 367–391.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.0261-3050.2006.00203.xSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Gives an overview of medical practice in early modern Spain and demonstrates how those practices both continued and changed in colonial Spanish America. Newson offers a balanced interpretation of Spanish Atlantic medicine as consisting of humoralism, simples (botanical, chemical, and mineral), and religious or divine interpretations and treatments. Spanish colonial practices also incorporated Native American and African medical knowledge to some extent.

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  • Sweet, James H. Domingos Álvares, African Healing, and the Intellectual History of the Atlantic World. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011.

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    Focusing on the story of an enslaved vodun priest and healer named Domingos Álvares, Sweet demonstrates the ways that a healer like Álvares negotiated capture in Africa, enslavement in colonial Brazil, and persecution in Portugal. Álvares’s various healing rituals and remedies, including therapeutic baths, medicinal drinks, and herbal remedies, earned him an ambivalent reception in Brazil, with a mix of fear and respect among Europeans who dreaded the close links between “poisons” and “medicines.” Álvares’s story allows Sweet to discuss a variety of components of Atlantic medicine.

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  • Walker, Timothy D. “The Medicines Trade in the Portuguese Atlantic World: Acquisition and Dissemination of Healing Knowledge from Brazil (c. 1580–1800).” Social History of Medicine 26.3 (2013): 403–431.

    DOI: 10.1093/shm/hkt010Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This article focuses on the shared medical knowledge between indigenous healers and Portuguese colonists, particularly Jesuit missionaries, in Brazil. It also examines the commodification of Brazilian botanical remedies by Jesuits, as they acquired and disseminated medical knowledge on a global scale.

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Military Medicine and Atlantic Crossings

From the 17th through the 19th centuries, sea voyages and military expeditions produced both deadly environments and innovative cures. Curtin 1961 discusses the problems that yellow fever and malaria presented for Europeans going to Africa. Physicians on these ships, Curtin points out, cautioned Europeans about their behavior, warning them to go ashore as little as possible and never at night, as well as to exercise moderation in all things (for more on this, see Burnard and Follett 2012 and Quinlan 2005, both cited under Public Health). But medicine began to change over time; surgeons aboard ship experimented with various treatments for ailments. Physicians’ experiments and observations proved instrumental to the development of medicine and medical practices across the Atlantic world and throughout the British Empire (Harrison 2010). European physicians learned from Native Americans about cinchona bark, or Peruvian bark, to treat fevers and chills and used it for a while, but by the late 18th century it fell out of favor and physicians began to increase their use of mercury and calomel (Curtin 1961), often to devastating effect. In other cases, military physicians sought medical knowledge from local populations during extended conflicts (Nobi 2016) and experimented with and refined techniques of smallpox inoculation (Fenn 2001). Since epidemics and unfamiliar diseases and environments played crucial roles in military conflicts, at times contributing to the outcome of war (McNeill 2010), seeking cures for these illnesses was often a matter of national and imperial importance. Naval physician James Lind was instrumental in curing scurvy, for example, as he insisted that ships carry limes or other citrus fruits to ward off and treat the illness. Lind’s findings had a transformative effect on the British navy (Haycock and Archer 2009, Lawrence 1996), which contributed to increasingly dominant British naval power. The findings of Lind and other naval surgeons reached beyond the military and altered medical practice throughout Britain and the empire in general (Harrison 2010). As Saakwa-Mante 1999 argues, the observational writings of naval surgeons could even contribute to conceptions of race.

  • Curtin, Philip D. “‘The White Man’s Grave’: Image and Reality, 1780–1850.” Journal of British Studies 1.1 (1961): 94–110.

    DOI: 10.1086/385437Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Europeans going to Africa had high rates of malaria and yellow fever, which physicians treated through preventative behaviors (e.g., avoiding night air and exercise) and through drugs. They first used cinchona bark, but as that fell out of favor physicians began administering mercury and calomel instead, with poor results, until they isolated quinine as a prophylactic in the mid-19th century.

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  • Fenn, Elizabeth A. Pox Americana: The Great Smallpox Epidemic of 1775–82. New York: Hill and Wang, 2001.

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    A detailed account of a virulent smallpox epidemic that spread across North America (including Mexico and Canada) in the late 18th century, Fenn’s work contains rich descriptions of inoculation procedures, as well as other treatments for smallpox, over time and across both Euro-American and Native American cultures.

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  • Harrison, Mark. Medicine in an Age of Commerce and Empire: Britain and its Tropical Colonies, 1660–1830. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199577736.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Military surgeons were particularly well placed to learn new medical practices, Harrison argues, and generated changes in European medicine through their experiences in the navy (also army, but chiefly navy) during the long 18th century. Also see European Medicine.

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  • Haycock, David Boyd, and Sally Archer, eds. Health and Medicine at Sea, 1700–1900. Woodbridge, UK: Boydell, 2009.

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    Essays discuss subjects such as the health of seamen in the British Empire, especially the treatment of scurvy in the navy as essential to military victories; the Royal Naval Surgeons; descriptions of surgery in the late 18th and early 19th centuries; the construction of naval hospitals; and West African slave mortality and its effects on slaving purchases, especially by Dutch merchants.

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  • Lawrence, Christopher. “Disciplining Disease: Scurvy, the Navy and Imperial Expansion, 1750–1820.” In Visions of Empire: Voyages, Botany, and Representations of Nature. Edited by David Phillip Miller and Peter Hans Reill, 80–106. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

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    Although more Pacific- than Atlantic-oriented, this essay discusses naval physician James Lind’s (and others’) work on scurvy in the navy. This work had implications and consequences for Atlantic voyages, as sailors were able to stay healthier longer aboard ship.

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  • McNeill, J. R. Mosquito Empires: Ecology and War in the Greater Caribbean, 1620–1914. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511811623Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Examines the role of yellow fever in various wars and military conflicts over a three-hundred-year timespan, with special focus on revolutions, immunities, and susceptibilities of particular populations and ecological change.

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  • Nobi, Pierre. “Officiers de santé et soignantes créoles face à la fièvre jaune. Co-construction de savoirs médicaux dans le cadre de l’expédition de Saint-Domingue (1802–1803).” Special Issue: Guerre, maladie, empire. Edited by Roberto Zaugg. Histoire, médecine et santé 10 (December 2016): 45–62.

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    Examines the transfer of scientific and medical knowledge during the Haitian Revolution. Epidemics, particularly yellow fever, plagued French armed forces during the Revolution, and French doctors often relied upon locals in the Caribbean for their practical medical knowledge in treating European soldiers. Also see The French Atlantic.

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  • Saakwa-Mante, Norris. “Western Medicine and Racial Constitutions: Surgeon John Atkins’ Theory of Polygenism and Sleepy Distemper in the 1730s.” In Race, Science and Medicine, 1700–1960. Edited by Waltraud Ernst and Bernard Harris, 29–57. London: Routledge, 1999.

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    A surgeon in the navy off the Guinea coast observed differences between black and white patients in rates of “sleepy distemper” or sleeping sickness; Saakwa-Mante argues that the surgeon’s observance of this difference contributed to ideas of polygenism and growing concepts of racial difference.

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Epidemics

Several kinds of diseases spread across the Atlantic during the colonial period and proved particularly virulent to vulnerable populations without acquired immunities (Crosby 1972). Smallpox, for example, was endemic in Europe, meaning that although it affected large numbers of people, many survived and acquired lifelong immunity as a result. The same was true of yellow fever in West Africa; survival conferred immunity for life, and for those exposed in childhood the disease was less virulent. But when these diseases found new populations to infect, comprised of individuals with no prior exposure, their attacks proved rigorous and deadly. Smallpox was unmatched in its extensive ravages of the indigenous population all over the Americas. But other epidemics, including yellow fever, also caused high rates of infection and death. These diseases spread fear much more quickly and effectively than they spurred innovative medical treatments, but in some cases they did promote cross-cultural medical experimentation. As Jones 2004 and Silva 2011 argue, religion and spirituality formed a significant part of both colonists’ and natives’ understandings of disease in early New England, and neither group seemed able to stop the spread of smallpox (though it is not clear that Europeans had any intention of doing so). Africans, though, had been inoculating against smallpox, as they had for yaws, for years, and Duffy 1953 points out that it was an African who informed New Englanders about the procedure in the 17th century. Although some colonists adopted the practice, it took more than another century for inoculation to develop into a common procedure (also see Gherini 2010). Fenn 2001 details the changing regimen for smallpox inoculation from the mid- to late 18th century, by which point inoculation had become less intense and variolation had become more common. The late 18th century was also a heyday for yellow fever. A particularly deadly outbreak in Philadelphia in 1793 led physician Benjamin Rush to speculate that people of African descent might be immune to the illness, but after several of them fell ill and died after tending white patients Rush was forced to revise his thesis. Even so, Rush’s speculations fueled racism and a belief in biological racial difference. McNeill 2010 documents similar consequences to yellow fever outbreaks in the Caribbean, in particular the differing rates of contraction between Haitian and French forces during the Haitian Revolution. Yellow fever confounded European-trained physicians for a long time, especially as it seemed to strike the healthiest and hardiest, and traditional treatments of bleeding and purging only made it worse.

  • Arner, Katherine. “Making Yellow Fever American: The Early American Republic, the British Empire and the Geopolitics of Disease in the Atlantic World.” Atlantic Studies 7.4 (2010): 447–471.

    DOI: 10.1080/14788810.2010.516197Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Discusses the political dimensions of the responses to, correspondence over, and attitudes toward, yellow fever as a disease of the Americas. Covers outbreaks from 1793–1822 in US eastern port towns.

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  • Crosby, Alfred W., Jr. The Columbian Exchange: Biological and Cultural Consequences of 1492. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1972.

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    Crosby’s highly influential work demonstrated how flora, fauna, and disease crossed the Atlantic beginning with Columbus’s initial voyage and shows the way this cross-pollination affected natives of both the Americas and Europe. Epidemic diseases were a crucial factor in this exchange.

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  • Duffy, John. Epidemics in Colonial America. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1953.

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    An overview of epidemics in colonial America. Includes chapters on smallpox, including inoculation and vaccination; as well discussions of diphtheria, scarlet fever, yellow fever, measles, whooping cough, mumps, respiratory diseases, and agues, fluxes, and poxes. Less on specific remedies, other than passing mentions of cinchona bark, along with other drugs (mercury, opium, rattlesnake root, calomel).

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  • Estes, J. Worth, and Billy G. Smith, eds. A Melancholy Scene of Devastation: The Public Response to the 1793 Philadelphia Yellow Fever Epidemic. Canton, MA: Science History Publications, 1997.

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    Edited collection of essays all pertaining to the severe yellow fever outbreak in 1793 Philadelphia.

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  • Fenn, Elizabeth A. Pox Americana: The Great Smallpox Epidemic of 1775–82. New York: Hill and Wang, 2001.

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    A detailed account of a virulent smallpox epidemic that spread across North America (including Mexico and Canada) in the late 18th century, Fenn’s work contains rich descriptions of inoculation procedures, as well as other treatments for smallpox, over time and across both Euro-American and Native American cultures.

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  • Gherini, Claire. “Rationalizing Disease: James Kilpatrick’s Atlantic Struggles with Smallpox Inoculation.” Atlantic Studies 7.4 (2010): 421–446.

    DOI: 10.1080/14788810.2010.516193Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Analyzes the efforts of a South Carolina physician’s attempts to introduce and promote smallpox inoculation during the mid-18th century in the face of considerable local resistance. Includes a discussion of the risks and benefits contemporaries ascribed to inoculation practices.

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  • Jones, David S. Rationalizing Epidemics: Meanings and Uses of American Indian Mortality since 1600. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004.

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    Discusses the different ways Native Americans and Europeans understood and interpreted epidemics, especially smallpox during the 17th century. At first both groups believed there was a religious component to the epidemic, but it was only later (18th century) that colonists began to take some responsibility for it, seeing it as a result (in part) of their own actions. Also see Native American Medicine.

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  • McNeill, J. R. Mosquito Empires: Ecology and War in the Greater Caribbean, 1620–1914. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511811623Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Examines the role of yellow fever in various wars and military conflicts over a three-hundred-year timespan, with special focus on revolutions, immunities, and susceptibilities of particular populations, and ecological change.

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  • Silva, Cristobal. Miraculous Plagues: An Epidemiology of Early New England Narrative. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199743476.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Silva’s work includes a nuanced reading of the function of religion in both Native and English perspectives on, and approaches to, disease and medicine. Using texts, he shows that religion and spirituality were central to illness and healing in both cultures. Also see New England.

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