Michael OsborneThe Emergence of Tropical Medicine in France

University of Chicago Press, 2014

by Carla Nappi on September 11, 2014

Michael Osborne

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[Cross-posted from New Books in Science, Technology and Society] In The Emergence of Tropical Medicine in France (University of Chicago Press, 2014), Michael Osborne offers a new way to think about and practice the history of colonial medicine. Eschewing pan-European or Anglo-centric models of the history of colonial medicine, Osborne’s book focuses on the centrality, transformations, and ultimate demise of naval medicine in France in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Motivating the central arguments and narrative of the book is a concern with place, places, and emplacement, and Osborne explores maritime medical practices and the ecology of disease in French provincial port cities, on ships, in prisons, in hospitals and schools, and beyond. The Emergence of Tropical Medicine in France pays special attention to how the study and conception of race, and its connection with health and disease, was formed and reformed in these settings. Readers with a special interest in the relationship between medicine and the military will find much to enjoy here, as will those who come to the book wanting to know more about the maritime history of diseases like Yellow Fever, lead poisoning, and Malaria. There’s also some wonderful storytelling here, including a fascinating account of a book-bomber in Chapter 4. It is a beautifully written account, and it should be required reading for those interested in the history of medicine and healing, of France, of the colonial medical past, and of place and locality.

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