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date: 26 March 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Disease has emerged as a key topic in the field of environmental history. This chapter surveys the intersections between histories of disease and environmental history in three key areas: conquest and colonization, urbanization and industrialization, and the re-emergence of infectious diseases in the late twentieth century. Critiquing work that has focused predominantly on presumed differences in immunities among racialized populations, this chapter argues that the best histories of disease combine deep knowledge of the social and material changes that contribute to illness with a critical perspective on the cultural contexts that have produced past and present understandings of disease. Scholars have generated excellent studies on the environments and uneven geographies of urban pollution and their contribution to tuberculosis, asthma, and obesity, particularly among the working classes. In the 1990s, the AIDS pandemic generated immense scientific interest in emerging infectious diseases and its environmental components, opening up new topics for environmental historians.

Keywords: disease, history of medicine, public health, disease ecology, colonialism, urbanization, industrialization, emerging infectious diseases, virgin soil epidemic

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