During the early 1990s, the ability of dangerous diseases to pass between animals and humans was brought once more to the public consciousness. These concerns continue to raise questions about how livestock diseases have been managed over time and in different social, economic, and political circumstances. Healing the Herds: Disease, Livestock Economies, and the Globalization of Veterinary Medicine brings together case studies from the Americas, western Europe, and the European and Japanese colonies to illustrate how the rapid growth of the international trade in animals through the nineteenth century engendered the spread of infectious diseases, sometimes with devastating consequences for indigenous pastoral societies. At different times and across much of the globe, livestock epidemics have challenged social order and provoked state interventions, often opposed by farmers and herders. The intensification of agriculture has transformed environments, with consequences for animal and human health.
But the last two centuries have also witnessed major changes in the way societies have conceptualized diseases and sought to control them. From the late nineteenth century, advances in veterinary technologies afforded veterinary scientists a new professional status and allowed them to wield greater political influence. While older methods have remained important to strategies of control and prevention, as demonstrated during the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in Britain in 2001, the rise of germ theories and the discovery of vaccines against some infections made it possible to move beyond the blunt tools of animal culls and restrictive quarantines of the past. Healing the Herds: Disease, Livestock Economies, and the Globalization of Veterinary Medicine offers a new and exciting comparative approach to the complex interrelationships of microbes, markets, and medicine in the global economy.
Karen Brown is currently an ESRC Research Fellow at the Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine, University of Oxford. She has published a number of papers that deal with environmental and veterinary history in South Africa. Daniel Gilfoyle specializes in the veterinary history of Africa and works in Research and Collections at the National Archives in London.