Health and medicine in colonial environments is one of the newest areas in the history of medicine, but one in which the Caribbean is conspicuously absent. Yet the complex and fascinating history of the Caribbean, borne of the ways European colonialism combined with slavery, indentureship, migrant labour and plantation agriculture, led to the emergence of new social and cultural forms which are especially evident the area of health and medicine. The history of medical care in the Caribbean is also a history of the transfer of cultural practices from Africa and Asia, the process of creolization in the African and Asian diasporas, the perseverance of indigenous and popular medicine, and the emergence of distinct forms of western medical professionalism, science, and practice.

This collection, which covers the French, Hispanic, Dutch, and British Caribbean, explores the cultural and social domains of medical experience and considers the dynamics and tensions of power. The chapters emphasize contestations over forms of medicalization and the controls of public health and address the politics of professionalization, not simply as an expression of colonial power but also of the power of a local elite against colonial or neo-colonial control. They pay particular attention to the significance of race and gender, focusing on such topics as conflicts over medical professionalization, control of women’s bodies and childbirth, and competition between ‘European’ and ‘Indigenous’ healers and healing practices. Employing a broad range of subjects and methodological approaches, this collection constitutes the first edited volume on the history of health and medicine in the circum-Caribbean region and is therefore required reading for anyone interested in the history of colonial and post-colonial medicine.

chapter |18 pages


chapter 1|21 pages

“For the benefit of the planters and the benefit of Mankind”

The Struggle to Control Midwives and Obstetrics on the Island of St Croix in the Danish West Indies, 1803–1848 *

chapter 2|13 pages

“Any elderly, sensible, prudent woman”

The Practice and Practitioners of Midwifery during Slavery in the British Caribbean

chapter 3|23 pages

From the Plantation to the Academy

Slavery and the Production of Cuban Medicine in the Nineteenth Century

chapter 5|23 pages

A Benign Place of Healing?

The Contagious Diseases Hospital and Medical Discipline in Post-Slavery Barbados

chapter 6|21 pages

Tolerating Sex

Prostitution, Gender, and Governance in the Dominican Republic, 1880s–1924

chapter 7|23 pages

The Politics of Professionalization

Puerto Rican Physicians during the Transition from Spanish to US Colonialism

chapter 8|30 pages

“Improving the Standards of Motherhood”

Infant Welfare in Post-Slavery British Guiana 1

chapter 9|16 pages

Health in the French Antilles

The Impact of the First World War 1

chapter 10|16 pages

The Difficulty of Unhooking the Hookworm

The Rockefeller Foundation, Grace Schneiders-Howard, and Public Health Care in Suriname in the Early Twentieth Century

chapter 11|22 pages

World War II to Independence

Health, Services, and Women in Trinidad and Tobago, 1939–1962

chapter 12|19 pages

Red Marly Soil

Medicine, Environment, and Bauxite Mining in Modern Jamaica, 1938 to Post-Independence