Stephen Snelders
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The making of a colonial disease in the eighteenth century
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African slaves were thought to carry the leprosy disease across the Atlantic to the Caribbean, where Europeans were then infected. To many slave holders, leprosy seemed to endanger the health of their labour force and hence the functioning of the Surinamese slave society. The colony came under the control of a private company, the Society of Suriname, composed of members of the Dutch West India Company (WIC), the city of Amsterdam, and a private investor. It is significant that Godfried Wilhelm Schilling's treatises in Latin on diseases that were hardly known in the Dutch Republic were translated into Dutch for more general readership. Schilling's ideas were not innovative or unique when considered within medicine at the time. The racial and sexual aspects of leprosy made it problematic to control the disease.

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Leprosy and colonialism

Suriname under Dutch rule, 1750– 1950


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