An innovative, interdisciplinary study of why leprosy, a disease with a very low level of infection, has repeatedly provoked revulsion and fear. Rod Edmond explores, in particular, how these reactions were refashioned in the modern colonial period. Beginning as a medical history, the book broadens into an examination of how Britain and its colonies responded to the believed spread of leprosy. Across the empire this involved isolating victims of the disease in 'colonies', often on offshore islands. Discussion of the segregation of lepers is then extended to analogous examples of this practice, which, it is argued, has been an essential part of the repertoire of colonialism in the modern period. The book also examines literary representations of leprosy in Romantic, Victorian and twentieth-century writing, and concludes with a discussion of traveller-writers such as R. L. Stevenson and Graham Greene who described and fictionalised their experience of staying in a leper colony.
Rod Edmond is Professor of Modern Literature and Cultural History at the University of Kent. His previous publications include Representing the South Pacific: Colonial Discourse from Cook to Gauguin (1997), and, as co-editor with Vanessa Smith, Islands in History and Representation (2003).
Introduction; 1. Describing, imagining and defining leprosy 1770-1867; 2. Scientists discuss the causes of leprosy, and the disease becomes a public issue in Britain and its empire 1867-98; 3. The fear of degeneration: leprosy in the tropics and the metropolis at the fin de siecle; 4. Segregation in the high imperial era: island leper colonies on Hawaii, at the Cape, in Australia and New Zealand; 5. Concentrating and isolating racialised others, the diseased and the deviant: the idea of the colony in the later nineteenth and early twentieth centuries; 6. Writers visiting leper colonies: Charles Warren Stoddard, Robert Louis Stevenson, Jack London, Graham Greene and Paul Theroux; Postscript.