Global Health in Africa — 2013

Historical Perspectives on Disease Control

Edited by Tamara Giles-Vernick and James L. A. Webb Jr.

“This volume illustrates very well that the current day applicability of the core concepts of global health [have] need of the serious critical historical and cultural examination that this volume (and no others that I know of) now provides in its richest and most useful form.”

Ernest Drucker, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health

“An immensely valuable collection…Global Health in Africa should inspire a new generation of local historians to locate the medical in African histories.”

Social History of Medicine

“[Global Health in Africa] demonstrates that Africa’s global health history is rich, important, and under-researched. The strength of this book lies in the breadth and depth of the studies presented in one volume.”

Socrates Litsios, World Health Organization, Division of the Control of Tropical Diseases

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Global Health in Africa is a first exploration of selected histories of global health initiatives in Africa. The collection addresses some of the most important interventions in disease control, including mass vaccination, large-scale treatment and/or prophylaxis campaigns, harm reduction efforts, and nutritional and virological research. The chapters in this collection are organized in three sections that evaluate linkages between past, present, and emergent. Part I, “Looking Back,” contains four chapters that analyze colonial-era interventions and reflect upon their implications for contemporary interventions. Part II, “The Past in the Present,” contains essays exploring the historical dimensions and unexamined assumptions of contemporary disease control programs. Part III, “The Past in the Future,” examines two fields of public health intervention in which efforts to reduce disease transmission and future harm are premised on an understanding of the past.

This much-needed volume brings together international experts from the disciplines of demography, anthropology, and historical epidemiology. Covering health initiatives from smallpox vaccinations to malaria control to HIV campaigns, Global Health in Africa offers a first comprehensive look at some of global health’s most important challenges.


Tamara Giles-Vernick conducts anthropological and historical research on hepatitis B and C transmission and control, zoonoses, buruli ulcer, and the emergence of HIV in Africa. Based at the Epidemiology of Emerging Diseases Unit of the Pasteur Institute in Paris, she has published two books and multiple articles on global public health, environmental history, conservation, and oral historiography.


James L. A. Webb, Jr. is a Professor of History at Colby College. He is the editor of the Ohio University Press series Perspectives on Global Health and the Series in Ecology and History and the author of Humanity’s Burden: A Global History of Malaria and The Long Struggle against Malaria in Tropical Africa. He is currently writing a book on the historical epidemiology of diarrheal diseases.

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • James L. A. Webb, Jr. and Tamara Giles-Vernick
  • Part I. Looking Back
  • One: The Long History of Smallpox Eradication
    Lessons for Global Health in Africa
    William H. Schneider
  • Two: The First Large-Scale Use of Synthetic Insecticide for Malaria Control in Tropical Africa
    Lessons from Liberia, 1945–62
    James L. A. Webb, Jr.
  • Three: A Genealogy of Treatment as Prevention (TasP)
    Prevention, Therapy, and the Tensions of Public Health in African History
    Guillaume Lachenal
  • Four: The True Fiasco
    The Treatment and Prevention of Severe Acute Malnutrition in Uganda, 1950–74
    Jennifer Tappan
  • Part II. The Past in the Present
  • Five: People, Great Apes, Disease, and Global Health in the Northern Forests of Equatorial Africa
    Tamara Giles-Vernick and Stephanie Rupp
  • Six: Defenseless Bodies and Violent Afflictions in a Global World
    Blood, Iatrogenesis, and Hepatitis C Transmission in Egypt
    Anne Marie Moulin
  • Seven: “Snake in the Belly”
    Africa’s Unhappy Experience with Cholera during the Seventh Pandemic, 1971 to the Present
    Myron Echenberg
  • Part III. The Past in the Future
  • Eight: Male Circumcision and HIV Control in Africa
    Questioning Scientific Evidence and the Decision-Making Process
    Michel Garenne, Alain Giami, and Christophe Perrey
  • Nine: Heroin Use, Trafficking, and Intervention Approaches in Sub-Saharan Africa
    Local and Global Contexts
    Sheryl McCurdy and Haruka Maruyama
  • About the Contributors
  • Index