Venereal disease in the British Empire

The late eighteenth century was a pivotal era in the history of ideas about venereal disease in the British Empire. The slow death of the Atlantic slave trade put new pressures on British doctors to cultivate sexual health among enslaved women in the British Caribbean in order to ensure their fertility, and at the same time the extensive engagement of the British military in the Caribbean raised new concerns about the sexual health of British soldiers and sailors. This paper will discuss how these pressures unfolded and how they shaped the circulation of medical knowledge about venereal disease. Particular attention will be given to the relationship between African and British healers, and especially the engagement of the Surgeon General of the British Armed Forces, John Hunter, with ideas about venereal disease that were generated in the Caribbean through the interaction of white and black healers.