Bodily Differences?: Gender, Race, and Class in Hans Sloane's Jamaican Medical Practice, 1687-1688
- Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences
- Oxford University Press
- Volume 60, Number 4, October 2005
- pp. 391-444
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Despite the multitude of seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century British medical publications regarding empire and health, Hans Sloane's A Voyage To the Islands [of] Madera, Barbados, Nieves, S. Christophers and Jamaica (1707) was the first to incorporate significant numbers of female and African patients among its printed case histories. Comprising some sixty-four pages of the introduction, this unique set of records affords scholars the rare opportunity to examine how patients (of both sexes and races, various ages, and all social levels) residing in a "torrid zone" were diagnosed and treated by an English physician during the 1680s. Sloane had expected to encounter illnesses vastly different from those found in England when he arrived in Jamaica, but after practicing medicine in Jamaica for over a year, he concluded that there existed very little difference in the manifestation of illnesses in different climates. Although some ailments were sex-specific and culture-specific, for the most part Sloane transgressed categories of gender and race by diagnosing and treating all his patients according to the same medical ideology. And although it did not directly challenge accepted medical views, Sloane's Voyage revealed incongruities in dealing with such categories within the context of early imperial medicine.