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Week 11: The Control of the Caribbean

The islands of the West Indies were key sites of conflict amongst European powers, who fought successive wars to secure possession of the temperate lands particularly well suited for the cultivation of sugar. Clashes between the indigenous population and European settlers, between European armies, and between imported African slave labourers and Europeans, meant that military medicine was constantly being honed in the region, as armies on all sides battled tropical disease as well as each other. In this session we’ll investigate medicine’s pivotal position in the control of the Caribbean. We will also examine the interaction between medicine and slavery in the eighteenth century, considering the extent to which the health of slaves was prioritised in the plantation system.


Discussion Questions:

-To what extent did disease influence the outcome of colonial wars in the Caribbean?

-How did the experience of tropical warfare shape military medicine?

-What medical problems were particularly associated with slavery, and how were they managed?

-What differences characterised the response of the Spanish, French, and British to tropical disease in the West Indies?


Background Reading:

Pratik Chakrabarti, Medicine and Empire, 1600-1960 (Basingstoke, 2014), 'Ch. 3: Medicine and the Colonial Armed Forces,' pp. 40-56

Required Readings:

*David Geggus, ‘Yellow Fever in the 1790s: the British Army in occupied Saint Domingue,’ Medical History, 23 (1979), 38-58. [e-journal]

*Kenneth F. Kiple and Krimhild Conee Ornelas, ‘Race, War and Tropical Medicine in the Eighteenth-Century Caribbean,’ in David Arnold (ed.), Warm Climates and Western Medicine: The Emergence of Tropical Medicine, 1500-1900 (Amsterdam, 1996), pp.65-79.

**J.R. McNeill, ‘The Ecological Basis of Warfare in the Caribbean, 1700-1804’, in Maarten Ultee (ed.), Adapting to Conditions: War and Society in the Eighteenth Century (Alabama, 1986), pp. 26-42.

*Londa Schiebinger, Secret Cures of Slaves: People, Plants and Medicine in the Eighteenth-Century World (Stanford, 2017), 'Ch.2: Experiments with the Negro Dr's Material Medica,' pp. 45-64.

**Richard B. Sheridan, Doctors and Slaves: A Medical and Demographic History of Slavery in the British West Indies, 1680-1834 (Cambridge, 1985), ‘Ch. 1: The Disease Environments and Epidemiology,’ pp. 1-41 [e-book]

Further Readings:

Christon I. Archer, ‘Combatting the Invisible Enemy: Health and Hospital Care in the Army of New Spain, 1760-1810’, New World, 2 (1987), 49-92.

Christiane Bougerol, 'Medical Practices in the French West Indies: Master and Slave in the 17th and 18th Centuries,' History and Anthropology 2 (1985), 125-143.

Trevor Burnard, ‘ “The Countrie Continues Sicklie”: White Mortality in Jamaica, 1655-1780,’ Social History of Medicine 12 (1999), 45-72 [e-journal]

Mark Carey, ‘Inventing Caribbean Climates: How Science, Medicine, and Tourism Changed Tropical Weather from Deadly to Healthy,’ Osiris 26 (2011), 129-141. [e-journal]

Philip D. Curtin, ‘Disease and Imperialism’ in David Arnold (ed.), Warm Climates and Western Medicine: The Emergence of Tropical Medicine, 1500-1900 (Amsterdam, 1996), pp.99-107.

_____________, Death By Migration: Europe’s Encounter with the Tropical World in the Nineteenth Century (1988). [e-book]

Juanita De Barros, Steven Palmer and David Wright (eds.) Health and Medicine in the Circum-Caribbean, 1800-1968 (New York, 2009) [e-book]

Rana Hogarth, Medicalizing Blackness: Making Racial Difference in the Atlantic World, 1780-1840 (Chapel Hill, 2017)

Kenneth F. Kiple, The Caribbean Slave: A Biological History (Cambridge, 1985) [e-book]

K. F. Kiple and B. T. Higgins, ‘Yellow Fever and the Africanization of the Caribbean,’ in J. W. Verano and D. H. Ubelaker (eds.), Disease and Demography in the Americas (London, 1992), pp. 227-48.

J. R. McNeill, Mosquito Empires: Ecology and War in the Greater Caribbean, 1620-1914 (Cambridge, 2009). [e-book]

S. Quinlan, ‘Colonial Encounters: Colonial Bodies, Hygiene and Abolitionist Politics in Eighteenth-Century France,’ History Workshop Journal 42 (1996), 107-125. [e-journal]