Race, Place, and Medicine

The Idea of the Tropics in Nineteenth-Century Brazil

Race, Place, and Medicine

Book Pages: 328 Illustrations: Published: April 2000

Author: Julyan G. Peard

History > Latin American History, Latin American Studies > Brazil, Medicine and Health > Medical Humanities

Race, Place, and Medicine examines the impact of a group of nineteenth-century Brazilian physicians who became known posthumously as the Bahian Tropicalista School of Medicine. Julyan G. Peard explores how this group of obscure clinicians became participants in an international debate as they helped change the scientific framework and practices of doctors in Brazil.
Peard shows how the Tropicalistas adapted Western medicine and challenged the Brazilian medical status quo in order to find new answers to the old question of whether the diseases of warm climates were distinct from those of temperate Europe. They carried out innovative research on parasitology, herpetology, and tropical disorders, providing evidence that countered European assumptions about Brazilian racial and cultural inferiority. In the face of European fatalism about health care in the tropics, the Tropicalistas forged a distinctive medicine based on their beliefs that public health would improve only if large social issues—such as slavery and abolition—were addressed and that the delivery of health care should encompass groups hitherto outside the doctors’ sphere, especially women. But the Tropicalistas’ agenda, which included biting social critiques and broad demands for the extension of health measures to all of Brazil’s people, was not sustained. Race, Place, and Medicine shows how imported models of tropical medicine—constructed by colonial nations for their own needs—downplayed the connection between socioeconomic factors and tropical disorders.
This study of a neglected episode in Latin American history will interest Brazilianists, as well as scholars of Latin American, medical, and scientific history.


Race, Place, and Medicine is a long-overdue step toward better incorporating Brazil—and Latin America—into the historical literature on nineteenth-century global structures of imperial knowledge.” — Amy Chazkel , Hispanic American Historical Review

“[A] highly revealing study of the pathbreaking research and social activism of the nineteenth-century Tropicalista doctors . . . . [A] meticulous cultural and social analysis of the Bahian medical community . . . .” — Seth Garfield , Ethnohistory

“[A]n intriguing and original work. . . . [A] fascinating case study which offers a fundamental contribution to not just the history of medicine in Brazil but to a number of fields. . . .” — Tamera Lynn Marko , Luso-Brazilian Review

“[C]aptivating . . . what is particularly noteworthy about this story is the advance of medical knowledge about tropical environs without the attendant military involvements so well represented in the British, French, and American experiences. . . . Professor Peard offers a very fresh perspective that illuminates the role of local professionals resident in tropical cities—not simply temporary visitor/occupiers—in formulating the theoretical underpinnings of tropical disease and the institutionalization of tropical medicine. — J. D. Goodyear , Bulletin of the History of Medicine

“In a carefully crafted and well-researched study Julyan Peard reveals the historical significance of a group of doctors in Salvador da Bahia . . . . [T]heir story is one well worth the telling and in doing so this excellent monograph has greatly assisted our knowledge and understanding not only of Brazilian history at the close of the imperial period but also the medical history of modern Latin America.” — Joseph Smith , Social History of Medicine

“Julyan G. Peard’s fascinating study of the Escola Tropicalista Bahiana provides an insightful counterpoint to the European-centered study of tropical medicine . . . . Written in accessible style, the volume is appropriate for both specialist and undergraduate reader . . . . Peard’s book deserves to be the widely cited ‘classic’ it has quickly become.” — David Sowell , Caribbean and Latin America

“This study brings the Tropicalistas to a wide audience and places them convincingly in both international and Brazilian contexts.” — George P. Browne , Colonial Latin American Historical Review

"Pioneering. . . . [A] vivid account. . . . With the publication of this book, future historians who use imperial medicine and tropical medicine interchangeably or who ignore Latin American contributions in this area might be rightfully accused of malpractice." — Anne-Emanuelle Birn , Latin American Research Review

"This timely, well-written book illuminates an aspect of Brazilian science that has long been neglected . . . . [A] useful discussion . . . . I warmly recommend this book . . ." — Silvia Figueirôa , Isis

Race, Place, and Medicine makes an important contribution to a number of fields by using medical history as a portal to a broader discussion of Brazilian national identity.” — Jeffrey Lesser, author of Negotiating National Identity: Immigrants, Minorities, and the Struggle for Ethnicity in Brazil

“A very impressive and original study that is a welcome addition to what is currently a rather slim literature on the history of medicine and public health in Latin America.” — Barbara Weinstein, author of For Social Peace in Brazil


Availability: In stock
Price: $27.95

Open Access