Port cities served as the nexus of the emerging global world – world market and world networks – in the 19th and 20th century. As a consequence of this function, port cities were invariably prone to an increased risk of exposure, particularly to infectious diseases. Many of the dominant epidemic diseases, such as plague, cholera, typhoid and yellow fever, were imported via port cities which, in turn, accelerated disease diffusion in coastal areas and dependent hinterlands. The individual demographic regimes of large ports were moulded by similar factors and extending trading networks, together with high levels of in-migration, aggravated the latent exposure risks of the indigenous population to endemic and epidemic diseases. In European port cities, the dominance of merchant capital directly affected the contemporary response to public health issues and had a profound impact on the selection and implementation of specific strategies. On the one hand the need to confront health risks was initially apparent in port cities, on the other hand there was an unusually high dependency on charity and philanthropy, and a general absence of collective commitment to social welfare provision.
In Asia during the late 19th century port cities were a showcase for politics of colonial powers. This is especially true for East Asia where many treaty ports were brought into existence in this period. In these port cities public health was one of the most important political issues between colonial powers and Asian countries which tried to build a nation state. At the outbreak of epidemic diseases colonial powers took quarantine measures in treaty ports and discriminated often the indigenous population by measures against these diseases. It was a symbol of nation state building for Asian countries that they themselves took public health policy in the port cities. Thus as for public health port cities appeared as a political space. Many port cities can be conceived as archetype places where the origins of modern health conditions and modern public health strategies can be analysed. It is not surprising therefore that considerable interdisciplinary researches, drawing explicitly on work in medical, global, demographic, economic, political, social and urban history has been undertaken in recent years.
The aim of the proposed session is to bring together a series of contributions covering the development of port cities in the late 19th and early 20th century – the period of “The Birth of The Modern World” (Christopher A. Bayly). It will analyse the selection and implementation of various public health strategies in different port cities in Europe and Asia, and examine the international relationship between overseas trade, urban development, and public health policy.
Proposals (300 words abstract) and a short CV (1 page) may be submitted online via the EAUH 2014 website until October 15, 2013.
Notification of paper acceptance: 15 December 2013 .
Please feel free to contact us through e-mail if you need further details.
Joerg Voegele (Germany)
Hideharu Umehara (Japan)
Institute for History of Medicine
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