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Medicine and Politics in Colonial Peru

Population Growth and the Bourbon Reforms

Adam Warren

Publication Year: 2010

By the eighteenth century, Peru had witnessed the decline of its silver industry and massive population losses due to smallpox and other diseases. It was widely believed toward the century’s end that economic salvation was contingent upon increasing the labor force and maintaining as many healthy workers as possible. In Medicine and Politics in Colonial Peru, Adam Warren presents a groundbreaking study of the primacy placed on medical care to generate population growth during this period. The Bourbon reforms of the eighteenth century shaped many of the political, economic, and social interests of Spain and its colonies. In Peru, local elites saw the reforms as an opportunity to positively transform society and its conceptions of medicine and medical institutions. Creole physicians, in particular, took advantage of Bourbon reforms to wrest control of medical treatment away from the Catholic Church, establish their own medical expertise, and create a new, secular medical culture. But during the early years of independence, the doctors lost much of their influence, and medical reforms ground to a halt. As Warren’s study reveals, despite falling in and out of political favor, Bourbon reforms and creole physicians were instrumental to the founding of modern medicine in Peru.

Published by: University of Pittsburgh Press

Series: Pitt Latin American Series


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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. ix-xi

In writing this book I have been keenly aware of my reliance on the intellectual guidance, friendship, and generosity of others. I am particularly grateful to Christine Hünefeldt and Eric Van Young, who pushed me to become more intellectually rigorous as a historian and provided endless encouragement on earlier versions of this project. Likewise, Dain Borges, ...

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pp. 1-14

In his first major publication, a work of rudimentary demographic analysis, a young doctor in Lima by the name of José Gregorio Paredes undertook a novel task. In 1807, just three years after receiving a medical degree at Lima’s University of San Marcos, Paredes attempted to predict how a promising new medical practice might transform the size and health ...

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1 Cultures of Healing in Colonial Lima,1535–1780

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pp. 15-48

The seventeenth-century poet Juan del Valle y Caviedes, in his famous work Diente del Parnaso, expressed doubts about both the benevolence and the competence of doctors in colonial Peru. Caviedes portrayed medicine in Peru under Hapsburg rule as an utter disaster, and he claimed it was particularly ridiculed in the capital, Lima. Moreover, Caviedes attempted ...

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2 Professionalizing Healers and the Bourbon Politics of Reform,1760–1810

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pp. 49-77

In November 1792, creole doctors, high-ranking members of the Church, government officials, and other prominent residents of Lima inaugurated a facility that they believed would transform the role of medicine in society and improve the health of the colony: an anatomical amphitheater. ...

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3 Creole Medical Authority and Peninsular Vaccination Campaigns,1802–1810

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pp. 78-117

In 1805, a naval surgeon in the port city of Callao, located several miles west of Lima, became the first person in the colony to carry out a new and revolutionary medical procedure that had originated in England. Trained in medicine and surgery and using materials that had recently arrived on a merchant ship from Buenos Aires via Chile, Pedro Belomo successfully ...

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4 Conquering the Biblical Curse,1804–1815

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pp. 118-156

On February 7, 1807, chaos erupted in Lima’s centuries-old refuge for lepers, the Hospital of San Lázaro on the north side of the Rímac River. Although archival information on the event is scarce, medical documents and testimony from workers and patients suggest that several lepers undergoing treatment in the hospital rioted and abandoned the ...

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5 Burial Reforms, Piety,and Popular Protest,1808–1850

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pp. 157-191

In late May 1808, creole doctors, ecclesiastical authorities, and government officials intruded in unprecedented ways into the ritual life and religious practices of Lima’s ethnically and culturally diverse population. They did so to improve health conditions and increase the colony’s population. Citing royal decrees and a growing body of literature on the ...

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6 Medical Education and the End of Medical Reforms,1808–1840

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pp. 192-217

Writing a series of narratives in the late 1830s and early 1840s about his time in South America, the Swiss traveler Johann Jakob von Tschudi provided a revealing assessment of Peru’s creole-led medical reform movement two decades after independence. Von Tschudi focused on medical education in particular and on the expertise of Lima’s doctors ...

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pp. 218-231

Despite the ambition Peru’s creole medical elite displayed under Bourbon rule, in the first two decades after independence their campaigns to create healthy colonial subjects failed to translate into projects aimed at reforming citizens. One reason for this failure was that in the early 1820s the government began to treat creole doctors and members of ...


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pp. 233-262


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pp. 263-274


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pp. 275-290

E-ISBN-13: 9780822973874
E-ISBN-10: 0822973871
Print-ISBN-13: 9780822961116
Print-ISBN-10: 0822961113

Page Count: 304
Publication Year: 2010

Series Title: Pitt Latin American Series
Series Editor Byline: John Charles Chasteen and Catherine M. Conaghan, Editors See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 794700638
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Medicine and Politics in Colonial Peru

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Medicine -- Peru -- History -- 19th century.
  • Public health -- Peru -- History -- 19th century.
  • Public health -- Peru -- History -- 18th century.
  • Spain -- Colonies -- America -- Administration -- History -- 18th century.
  • Peru -- Population policy -- History -- 18th century.
  • Peru -- Population policy -- History -- 19th century.
  • Vaccination -- Peru -- History -- 18th century.
  • Vaccination -- Peru -- History -- 19th century.
  • Medicine -- Peru -- History -- 18th century.
  • Spain -- Colonies -- America -- Administration -- History -- 19th century.
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