304 pages, 6 x 9
4 figures, 3 maps
Release Date:22 Oct 2015

For All of Humanity

Mesoamerican and Colonial Medicine in Enlightenment Guatemala

The University of Arizona Press
Smallpox, measles, and typhus. The scourges of lethal disease—as threatening in colonial Mesoamerica as in other parts of the world—called for widespread efforts and enlightened attitudes to battle the centuries-old killers of children and adults. Even before edicts from Spain crossed the Atlantic, colonial elites oftentimes embraced medical experimentation and reform in the name of the public good, believing it was their moral responsibility to apply medical innovations to cure and prevent disease. Their efforts included the first inoculations and vaccinations against smallpox, new strategies to protect families and communities from typhus and measles, and medical interventions into pregnancy and childbirth.

For All of Humanity examines the first public health campaigns in Guatemala, southern Mexico, and Central America in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Martha Few pays close attention to Indigenous Mesoamerican medical cultures, which not only influenced the shape and scope of those regional campaigns but also affected the broader New World medical cultures. The author reconstructs a rich and complex picture of the ways colonial doctors, surgeons, Indigenous healers, midwives, priests, government officials, and ordinary people engaged in efforts to prevent and control epidemic disease.

Few’s analysis weaves medical history and ethnohistory with social, cultural, and intellectual history. She uses prescriptive texts, medical correspondence, and legal documents to provide rich ethnographic descriptions of Mesoamerican medical cultures, their practitioners, and regional pharmacopeia that came into contact with colonial medicine, at times violently, during public health campaigns.
Few’s thoughtful and compelling book opens up rich areas for future investigation and systematization. It will thus represent essential reading for researchers of medicine and public health throughout the Atlantic world as well as students and scholars of colonial Latin America more broadly.”—Hispanic American Historical Review

“In For All of Humanity, Martha Few provides the reader with a fascinating investigation of a range of archival documents, including maps, elucidating indigenous and non-indigenous medical spaces, practices and beliefs in eighteenth-century Guatemala.”—Bulletin of Spanish Studies

“Few’s work adds to the public health historiography by revealing that medical pluralisms shaped health practices in Guatemala beginning in the late 1600s. She excels at breaking down complicated arguments into an approachable text that students will appreciate.”—Choice

For All of Humanity serves as an important contribution to the growing literature on medicine and science in the Spanish empire and an important corrective to this literature, which has tended to focus on imperial directives with less attention to local initiatives.”—American Historical Review

“In this well-researched study, Martha Few presents a detailed account of the responses to smallpox, typhus, and other epidemic illnesses in colonial Guatemala.”—Bulletin of the History of Medicine

“Martha Few has opened a fresh window into the new knowledge of the Enlightenment as it filtered into the Americas and was impacted and nurtured by the findings of creole intellectuals and native healers as they faced the challenges of epidemic disease and public health.”—Noble David Cook, author of Born to Die: Disease and New World Conquest, 14921650

“A rich and complex picture of the ways various groups engaged in efforts to prevent and control epidemic disease, improve health, and save (and at times baptize) the lives of those facing near-certain death.”—Adam Warren, author of Medicine and Politics in Colonial Peru: Population Growth and the Bourbon Reforms
Martha Few is an associate professor of Latin American history at the University of Arizona. She is the author of Women Who Live Evil Lives: Gender, Religion, and the Politics of Power in Colonial Guatemala and co-editor of Centering Animals in Latin American History.
List of Illustrations
Introduction: Medicine and Colonialism in Enlightenment Guatemala
1. Humanitarianism and Epidemic Death
2. Typhus and the Landscapes of Maya Medicine
3. Constructing Colonial Fetuses
4. How to Inoculate Indians
5. “This Marvelous Fluid”
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