Suman Seth

May 13, 2022

Difference and Disease

Medicine, Race, and the Eighteenth-Century British Empire

Cambridge University Press 2020

Before the nineteenth century, travelers who left Britain for the Americas, West Africa, India and elsewhere encountered a medical conundrum: why did they fall ill when they arrived, and why - if they recovered - did they never become so ill again? The widely accepted answer was that the newcomers needed to become 'seasoned to the climate'. 

In his book Difference and Disease: Medicine, Race, and the Eighteenth-Century British Empire (Cambridge UP, 2020), Suman Seth explores forms of eighteenth-century medical knowledge, including conceptions of seasoning, showing how geographical location was essential to this knowledge and helped to define relationships between Britain and her far-flung colonies. In this period, debates raged between medical practitioners over whether diseases changed in different climes. Different diseases were deemed characteristic of different races and genders, and medical practitioners were thus deeply involved in contestations over race and the legitimacy of the abolitionist cause. In this innovative and engaging history, Seth offers dramatically new ways to understand the mutual shaping of medicine, race, and empire.

Rachel Pagones is an acupuncturist, educator, and author based in Cambridge, England. Her book, Acupuncture as Revolution: Suffering, Liberation, and Love (Brevis Press) was published in 2021.

Listen to more episodes on:

Your Host

Rachel Pagones

Rachel Pagones is an acupuncturist, educator, and author. She was chair of the doctoral program in acupuncture and Chinese medicine at Pacific College of Health and Science in San Diego before moving to the UK in 2021.

Learn More

Also Hosted By Rachel Pagones