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Leprosy and Empire: A Medical and Cultural History by Rod Edmond

By Rod Edmond

An leading edge, interdisciplinary learn of why leprosy, a ailment with a truly low point of an infection, has again and again provoked revulsion and worry. Rod Edmond explores, particularly, how those reactions have been refashioned within the glossy colonial interval. starting as a scientific historical past, the booklet broadens into an exam of ways Britain and its colonies spoke back to the believed unfold of leprosy. around the empire this concerned keeping apart sufferers of the sickness in 'colonies', usually on offshore islands. dialogue of the segregation of lepers is then prolonged to analogous examples of this tradition, which, it's argued, has been a vital a part of the repertoire of colonialism within the sleek interval. The ebook additionally examines literary representations of leprosy in Romantic, Victorian and twentieth-century writing, and concludes with a dialogue of traveller-writers comparable to R. L. Stevenson and Graham Greene who defined and fictionalised their event of staying in a leper colony.

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

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36 (XI, 4, 60–4). Lorrinte’s corrosive gaze consumes her victim’s ‘vital parts / Eating his very core of life away’ (XI, 4, 69–70), but Ladurlad manages to protect his daughter from the power of this enchantress. However, when Kailyal rejects an offer of marriage from Kehama, the Rajah takes revenge by infecting the young woman with leprosy, that ‘O’er all her frame with quick contagion spread’ (XIX, 1, 10). Kailyal the Virgin is innocence personified and threatened, and she welcomes this latest curse as a defence against further assault: ‘this scurf and scale / Of dire deformity, whose loathsomeness / Surer than panoply of strongest mail / Arms me against all such foes’ (XIX, 2, 25–8).

282. , p. 283, and n. 320. Matthew Lewis, Journal of a West India Proprietor, ed. Judith Terry, (Oxford: World’s Classics, 1999), pp. 90–1. Bewell, Medicine and the West Indian Slave Trade, p. 189. Describing, imagining and defining leprosy, 1770–1867 29 Amid all this confusion of names, aetiology and mode of transmission are certain features that will recur in discussions of leprosy throughout the nineteenth century. On the one hand, it is a native and hereditary disease with pronounced and distinctive symptoms; on the other, Europeans are not immune from the disease, it is infectious, indeed communicable by touch, and its symptoms are impossible to distinguish from many other conditions.

Grainger describes a leprous ‘Negroe man’ he once saw: ‘He was a hideous spectacle. ’18 The stark juxtaposition of these two sentences, one signalling decay, the other health, represents leprosy as a puzzling contradiction. Grainger’s essay also expresses confusion over what is and is not leprosy. His first four entries under distempers most likely to affect slaves are leprosy, elephantiasis, the joint-evil and yaws. I have already noted the recurring confusion of leprosy, elephantiasis and yaws.

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