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For All of Humanity
Mesoamerican and Colonial Medicine in Enlightenment Guatemala
By Martha Few
320 pp. / 6.00 x 9.00 / 2015
Paper (978-0-8165-3187-5) [s]
Cloth (978-0-8165-3188-2) [s]
Related Interest
  - Latin American Studies

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
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.


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, 1492-1650

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

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.

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