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Join CLS for an evening of fascinating academic discussion with two incredible historians, Dr. Jim Downs and Dr. Jacob Steere-Williams, regarding Downs’ newest book, Maladies of Empire. The book covers a sweeping global history that looks beyond European urban centers to show how slavery, colonialism, and war propelled the development of modern medicine.
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About the Book:
Most stories of medical progress come with ready-made heroes. John Snow traced the origins of London’s 1854 cholera outbreak to a water pump, leading to the birth of epidemiology. Florence Nightingale’s contributions to the care of soldiers in the Crimean War revolutionized medical hygiene, transforming hospitals from crucibles of infection to sanctuaries of recuperation. Yet histories of individual innovators ignore many key sources of medical knowledge, especially when it comes to the science of infectious disease. Reexamining the foundations of modern medicine, Jim Downs shows that the study of infectious disease depended crucially on the unrecognized contributions of non-consenting subjects—conscripted soldiers, enslaved people, and subjects of empire. Plantations, slave ships, and battlefields were the laboratories in which physicians came to understand the spread of disease. Military doctors learned about the importance of air quality by monitoring Africans confined to the bottom of slave ships. Statisticians charted cholera outbreaks by surveilling Muslims in British-dominated territories returning from their annual pilgrimage. The field hospitals of the Crimean War and the US Civil War were carefully observed experiments in disease transmission. The scientific knowledge derived from discarding and exploiting human life is now the basis of our ability to protect humanity from epidemics. Boldly argued and eye-opening, Maladies of Empire gives a full account of the true price of medical progress.
About Dr. Jim Downs:
About Dr. Jacob Steere-Williams
Dr. Steere-Williams is an Associate Professor & the Director of Graduate Studies for the Department of History at the College of Charleston. He also is the Associate Editor for the Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, and author of The Filth Disease: Typhoid Fever and the Practices of Epidemiology in Victorian England.