Disease, Medicine, and Empire in the Americas

Dr Erica Charters

This course explores the role of disease and medicine in the development of empires, focused on the Americas.  It begins with first contact between the Old World and the New and ends with American intervention in Latin America, allowing a long-term examination of early modern empires.  It also delineates and probes the role of medicine and science in conceptual definitions of ‘the Americas’. 

The course provides a comparative overview of colonial experience and practice, examining the empires of Spain, France, and England/Britain.  Medicine and other responses to disease are used to elucidate political and social structures of imperialism and examine the effect of the ‘New World’ on European thought and practice.  Readings begin with the Columbian exchange, looking at the obstacles and opportunities that disease presented in the so-called New World.  The readings also consider disease and medicine in the shaping of the Atlantic slave trade, as well as in the diversity of theories regarding race in Spanish America, the Caribbean, and the United States.  

Preliminary reading                                                Course outline and bibliography