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Malaria and Domestic Medicine in Late-Colonial Lima

Stefanie Gänger

Universität zu Köln

Throughout the colonial period, the city of Lima and its environs were haunted by “tertian fevers” – afflictions that can retrospectively be diagnosed as vivax infections, a form of malaria that is not deadly like the tropical variant but that has relapses as one of its signature dynamics: large sectors of the Lima population would have been accustomed to suffering from the debilitating bouts of fever frequently in the course of their lives. This paper outlines a history of malaria and malaria therapy in late-colonial Lima. It sketches the human and geographical contours of that ailment in and around the viceregal capital in the eighteenth century and traces the ways in which the city’s inhabitants sought to cure or ward off “tertian fevers”. The paper’s particular emphasis rests on medical interactions in the home – on household medicine, self-dosing and family care in the face of one of the city’s most ubiquitous illnesses. Premised upon a close reading of Lima family recipe collections and various genres of popular print to circulate health advice – the yearly almanac and a range of home medical guides – this paper seeks to understand how men and women from various sectors of Lima society took responsibility for their own health and well-being.

January 14, 2015