Article ID: CBB749930747

The Balmis expedition of 1803 and the debate about the merits of Spanish colonialism (2020)


As with any other European imperial power, Spain has in recent decades been subject to postocolonial critiques for its rule over colonies. Admittedly, much blood was spilled during the conquest of the Americas, and Spanish rule of the colonies was despotic. But, the more benign aspects of Spanish colonial rule are often ignored. One particularly enlightened moment of Spanish colonialism was the Balmis expedition of 1803. In the Spanish colonies, smallpox had been rampant, and it had contributed to reducing indigenous population during the conquest. In colonial times, it persisted as a major public health problem. The Spanish monarchy then decided to organize a major vaccination expedition in the colonies, under the command of Francisco Javier Balmis. In this article, I review the importance of that expedition for the history of medicine. I also consider some of its ethical shortcomings, and the way it contributes to the current debate about the merits of Spanish colonialism.

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Authors & Contributors
Jones, Greta
Malcolm, Elizabeth
Naono, Atsuko
Markowitz, Gerald E.
Roldan, Mary
Vaughan, Megan
Bulletin of the History of Medicine
História, Ciências, Saúde---Manguinhos
Social History of Medicine
British Journal for the History of Science
Journal of Burma Studies
Indian Journal of History of Science
New York, City University of
International Specialized Book Services
Lexington Books
Orient BlackSwan
Florida International University
Northwestern University
Vaccines; vaccination
Public health
Disease and diseases
Wilde, Robert Willis
Balmis, Francisco Xavier de
Myanmar (Burma)
19th century
18th century
20th century, early
20th century
17th century
Meiji period (Japan, 1868-1910)
Royal Belfast Academical Institution
Catholic University of Ireland (Dublin)

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