The Gazette de medicine pour les colonies, one of the few scientific journals published in the West Indies in the eighteenth century, highlighted questions plaguing physicians who served both slave and planter populations in Europe's Caribbean colonies: To what extent do diseases progress and medicines metabolize differently in the bodies of Europeans and Africans? What differences among human are significant when trying to cure? This book-length project analyzes medicine in the eighteenth-century Atlantic world, exploring how newly developing concepts of race and sex figured in human experimentation. Specifically, this research analyzes how human subjects were chosen for experiments, and how notions of uniformity and variability across living organisms were developed. Did physicians imagine a natural human body that once tested held universally? Were tests done on white bodies thought to hold for black bodies (and vice versa)? Were male and female bodies considered interchangeable in this regard? These questions are today still key to the mission of protecting and improving human health. Preliminary research shows that it was in the 1760s (in Jamaica) that questions first arose in a modern European colonial context about whether experiments done on the bodies of Africans were valid for Europeans, and these first questions were, significantly, about women. This project fosters innovative research strategies in three primary areas: first and foremost our knowledge of African and Amerindian contributions to early modern medicine;the history of human experimentation;and the role of medicine in the eighteenth-century Atlantic world. The project is based in archival materials, medical books and journals, and in eighteenth-century literature on slavery, the slave trade, the plantation complex, and the like. The PI will apply new techniques from the Stanford Spatial History Lab to map the circulation of knowledge between and among Amerindians, Africans, and Europeans in the Atlantic World. The PI has published prize-winning books in eighteenth-century science and medicine in the Atlantic world. This book, like her others, will be published and widely distributed by Harvard University Press.

Public Health Relevance

Race and Human Experimentation in the Eighteenth-Century Atlantic World Londa Schiebinger This project employs innovative research strategies to examine how eighteenth-century notions of race and gender influenced medical practices on slave plantations in the Caribbean. These questions are today still key to the mission of protecting and improving human health. This project seeks to promote the highest level of social responsibility in medicine by expanding our knowledge of the history of human experimentation.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Library of Medicine (NLM)
Health Sciences Publication Support Awards (NLM) (G13)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZLM1-ZH-P (01))
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Vanbiervliet, Alan
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Stanford University
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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