Thesis ID: CBB001562706

Disease in the Torrid Zone: Malady and Medicine in Eighteenth-Century Saint Domingue (1999)


Weaver, Karol Kimberlee (Author)

Pennsylvania State University
Schiebinger, Londa

Publication Date: 1999
Edition Details: Advisor: Schiebinger, Londa
Physical Details: 260 pp.
Language: English

This study of Saint Domingue in the eighteenth century reveals that the French colony's reputation as the Torrid Zone, a place of death and disease, affected its development in three important ways. First of all, physicians, planters, and philosophers employed disease to construct gender and racial categories. Many believed that the different classes of mankind (free, enslaved, European, Creole, African, and multiracial) were susceptible to different diseases and, therefore, were destined to perform certain types of labor and lead particular kinds of lives. This disease differential, as historian Kenneth Kiple called it, justified the enslavement of Africans, influenced the demography of the island, and upheld the domestic role expected of white Creole women. Secondly, the diseases that the peoples of Saint Domingue endured led to the creation and development of a massive medical world composed of royal medical practitioners, private medical workers, and unlicensed and outlawed healers. Those persons who practiced the healing arts, whether legally or illegally, assumed great power within the colony. Royally appointed medical men proposed new laws designed to prevent and arrest the spread of disease, while enslaved healers enjoyed high status within slave communities. Finally, the concerns voiced over illness led many to accuse African and Afro-Caribbean slaves of employing sickness as a mode of resistance. Disease as resistance took many forms, and not only included feigning illness or causing oneself or others to become sick, but also involved methods whereby slaves destroyed biological productivity by engaging in suicide, self- mutilation, contraception, abortion, and infanticide.


Description Cited in Diss. Abstr. Int. A 61 (2000): 334. UMI order no. 9960675.

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Authors & Contributors
Weaver, Karol Kimberlee
Lachenal, Guillaume
Few, Martha
Hamlin, Christopher S.
Kovalovich Weaver, Karol
Nelson, William Max
French Colonial History
Scientia Canadensis: Journal of the History of Canadian Science, Technology, and Medicine
American Historical Review
Bulletin of the History of Medicine
Canadian Bulletin of Medical History/Bulletin Canadienne d'Histoire de la Medecine
Comparative Studies in Society and History
Éditions La Découverte
Oxford University Press
Stanford University Press
The University of Arizona Press
University of Illinois Press
France, colonies
Disease and diseases
Jamot, Eugene
Puységur, Armand Marie-Jacques de Chastenet, Marquis de
Time Periods
18th century
19th century
17th century
20th century, early
Saint Domingue (Caribbean)
Haiti (Caribbean)
Jesuits (Society of Jesus)

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