Medical Involvement in the Early Modern Slave Trade

Hannah Murphy

Wellcome Collection

Tuesday, November 30, 2021 12:30 pm EST

Online Event

About this event
What you’ll do
Join Hannah Murphy to explore the practical role of medical experts in the construction of the early modern slave trade. 
Between 1440 and 1720, more than 2 million enslaved people from a range of African kingdoms and territories were forcibly transported to the Americas; tens of thousands more remained in Europe. From the first moments of contact between African and European peoples, medical practitioners played a key role in creating a domesticated discourse around enslaved bodies. Among their other practical duties, they provided medical treatment at every key stage in the process of enslavement: encounter, confrontation and commerce, transport, illness and injury, disembarking, inspection and processing.  
Over the course of the early modern period, their participation developed and became more formal. Using travel narratives, ship surgeon’s journals and printed books in Wellcome Collection, the talk will provide a broad overview of the dynamics at play as medical practitioners competed for expertise and authority over new conceptions of human difference.
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