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Yaws, Syphilis, Sexuality, and the Circulation of Medical Knowledge in the British Caribbean and the Atlantic World

From: Bulletin of the History of Medicine
Volume 88, Number 2, Summer 2014
pp. 225-252 | 10.1353/bhm.2014.0029

Abstract

Summary:

This history of the disease categories “yaws” and “syphilis” explores the interplay between European and African medical cultures in the early modern Atlantic world. The assertion made by both early modern and modern medical authorities, that yaws and syphilis are the same disease, prompts a case study of the history of disease that reflects on a variety of issues in the history of medicine: the use of ideas about contagion to demarcate racial and sexual difference at sites around the British Empire; the contrast between persistently holistic ideas about disease causation in the Black Atlantic and the growth of ontological theories of disease among Europeans and Euro-Americans; and the controversy over the African practice of yaws inoculation, which may once have been an effective treatment but was stamped out by plantation owners who viewed it as a waste of their enslaved laborers’ valuable time.



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