restricted access Threats to Public Order and Health: Mobile Men as Syphilis Vectors in Late Ottoman Medical Discourse and Practice

Late Ottoman physicians used medical advice literature to impact syphilis transmission and treatment by cultivating men’s rather than women’s hygiene, self-care, and sexual practices. Soldiers and migrant workers were understood to be the main vectors of syphilis beginning in the mid-nineteenth century. Efforts to control the disease were complicated by a lack of effective treatment until the 1910s, inadequate investment in health care, disparate agendas at the provincial and imperial level, and resistance to treatment by men who feared loss of status and jobs. Transmission intensified during World War I. By the war’s end attempts to regulate and cultivate syphilitic men aligned with the loss of Ottoman control over territory and population and new anxieties concerned with establishing a new state built on “proper” healthy marital reproduction. Sources examined include regulations, medical advice literature, and encounters between syphilitic men and medical authorities captured in archival sources.