Leprosy and Empire: A Medical and Cultural History (Cambridge Social and Cultural Histories)

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Karen Harvey. Katherine Crawford. Bestselling Series. Harry Potter. Popular Features. New Releases. Free delivery worldwide. Description An innovative, interdisciplinary study of why leprosy, a disease with a very low level of infection, has repeatedly provoked revulsion and fear. Rod Edmond explores, in particular, how these reactions were refashioned in the modern colonial period. Beginning as a medical history, the book broadens into an examination of how Britain and its colonies responded to the believed spread of leprosy. Across the empire this involved isolating victims of the disease in 'colonies', often on offshore islands.

Discussion of the segregation of lepers is then extended to analogous examples of this practice, which, it is argued, has been an essential part of the repertoire of colonialism in the modern period.


  • Leprosy and Empire : Rod Edmond : .
  • Introduction: Difference and Discourse in the British Empire.
  • History and Social Change in Health and Medicine - SAGE Research Methods?
  • Introduction: Difference and Discourse in the British Empire | SpringerLink.

The book also examines literary representations of leprosy in Romantic, Victorian and twentieth-century writing, and concludes with a discussion of traveller-writers such as R. Stevenson and Graham Greene who described and fictionalised their experience of staying in a leper colony. People who viewed this also viewed. Add to basket. Leprosy Roger S. Venomous Encounters Peter Hobbins. Homo Deus Yuval Noah Harari.

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The Stigma of Leprosy

The Vagabond and the Princess Alan Ogden. Other books in this series. Defining disease, segregating race: Sir Raphael Cilento, Aboriginal health and leprosy management in twentieth century Queensland. In Australia, as elsewhere, modern scientific studies of leprosy were firmly located within contemporary race-based and climatic medical theories, and were closely aligned to the discipline of tropical medicine. Moreover these theories served to reinforce existing white perceptions about Aboriginal people and re-articulate the idea that Aboriginal ill health was an inescapable consequence of racial weaknesses.

I will attempt to redress this historical oversight in this article. Firstly I will provide a brief overview of leprosy management strategies in Queensland, then outline the medical theories of Cilento, and lastly chart the establishment and operations of the Aboriginal-only leprosarium on Fantome Island. In the late nineteenth century leprosy came to renewed prominence in European and colonial societies including Australia.

Leprosy was increasingly labelled a disease of non-white peoples of colonial subjects , which tied in with mounting concerns about colonial rule, racial degeneration and the purity of the white race. Doctors began to diagnose sporadic cases of leprosy in Queensland from the s and s.

Although the disease initially appeared to be confined to the Chinese and Pacific Island migrant populations, the infection was soon found amongst the white population of Queensland causing widespread alarm. The first such facility, Dayman Island leprosarium, was established in Torres Strait in to house Chinese leprosy sufferers, and over the next 90 years various island sites were used for the purposes of compulsory isolation, detention and treatment of Queensland leprosy sufferers. Historian Suzanne Saunders has previously argued that the spatial segregation of Aboriginal leprosy sufferers in Northern Australia Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland represented an extension of the Aboriginal reserve system by which governments forcibly removed Aboriginal people from one location to another and sought to limit their movement.

This convergence — of the administrations of health and race — was most fully articulated in the operations of Fantome Island leprosarium, which was established in by Cilento to house Aboriginal leprosy sufferers.

Along with fellow doctors John Cumpston and John Elkington, Sir Raphael Cilento played a key role in the development of quarantine and tropical disease management policies in Australia during the interwar period. Cilento a medical practitioner, published author and career public servant undertook his medical training at the University of Adelaide and later at the London School of Tropical Medicine.

Most notably he took part in police-assisted leprosy raids in which Aboriginal people suspected of contact with confirmed leprosy sufferers were pursued, detained and subjected to compulsory medical examinations. The North Queensland leprosy round-ups of paralleled those conducted by the Western Australian government in the North Kimberley region between and A typical Western Australian leprosy raid, Jebb describes, involved the police officers surrounding an Aboriginal camp and at dawn, raiding the camp, firing shots in the air or at dogs to stop people fleeing, and all leprosy suspects were placed in chains.

However, the Kimberley patrols, unlike those of Queensland, came about because of economic and political considerations and were fully endorsed by the government. For example in northern Western Australia white station people took the drastic measure of sending their families away from the area and threatening to abandon their pastoral leases if the government did not take action to control the Aboriginal leprosy problem.

Leprosy and Empire : A Medical and Cultural History

The Western Australian leprosy campaign therefore had an economic dimension notably absent from the Queensland context, which focused primarily on the medical impacts of leprosy. The North Queensland leprosy round ups were different in that they were not officially sanctioned by either the Queensland State or Commonwealth governments. Cilento only records engaging in such raids during , although he made another research trip to North Queensland in A vigorous public debate about the diagnosis, treatment and control of leprosy occurred in Queensland during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, with considerable opposition to the spatial isolation of white leprosy sufferers.

However by the s medical segregation was the accepted method of leprosy management in the state. Despite their difference of opinion, the work of both doctors highlights the extent to which concerns about leprosy contagion intersected with societal fears about racial intermingling during this period.

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Cilento was an avid supporter of the medical segregation of all leprosy patients irrespective of race. In accordance with his firm beliefs about racial segregation, Cilento made frequent references to the supposedly inherent racial differences between white and Aboriginal leprosy patients in his scientific publications and government reports of the s.

In he informed white staff members of their special responsibilities to white leprosy patients. Instead he was firmly committed to their removal from the island and the establishment of an Aboriginal-only leprosarium on a remote North Queensland island. The work of Cook and Cilento, as well as the changing demographic composition of Peel Island lazaret, contributed to the re-conceptualisation of leprosy as an Aboriginal disease during the interwar period.

However it is important to note that the significance of this disease construction was primarily confined to the political, scientific and bureaucratic spheres of white society, and the Queensland public did not appear overly concerned about the Aboriginal leprosy threat. In the mid-twentieth century, however, most white Queenslanders felt sufficiently secure in their health and their communities continuing to employ Aboriginal workers on their farms and in their homes despite the apparently new threat of Aboriginal leprosy. These same officials were willing to concede in the post-war period albeit with some reservations that white leprosy sufferers did not require total isolation.

The chosen location at the northern tip of Fantome Island, six hours by boat from Townsville, was a suitably remote location for such a medical institution. A problematic beginning — the establishment of Fantome Island leprosarium. The leprosarium officially opened on 10 January , with the arrival of Aboriginal patients transported from Peel Island lazaret. Fig 1. Newly established Fantome Island leprosarium looking north showing one section of patient housing, which was segregated by gender. From its inception, the Department of Public Health played a minor role in the day-to-day administration of Fantome Island leprosarium.

In addition, and in marked contrast to his earlier involvement, Cilento played a limited role in the operations of Fantome Island leprosarium following its opening in , and made no official visits to the institution. Instead the institution was unofficially managed by the Catholic Church, and Department of Native Affairs; an administrative decision primarily designed to reduce government expenditure on the institution. The Sisters of OLHC initially staffed the leprosarium, but were replaced in by the larger international order the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary FMM who remained at the institution until its closure in This shift in responsibility from the administrative domain of medicine to that of mission and reserve resulted in Fantome Island leprosarium being markedly different from its institutional predecessor Peel Island lazaret.

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