In this first English-language study of popular and scientific responses to tuberculosis in nineteenth-century France, David Barnes provides a much-needed historical perspective on a disease that is making an alarming comeback in the United States and Europe. Barnes argues that French perceptions of the disease—ranging from the early romantic image of a consumptive woman to the later view of a scourge spread by the poor—owed more to the power structures of nineteenth-century society than to medical science. By 1900, the war against tuberculosis had become a war against the dirty habits of the working class.
Lucid and original, Barnes's study broadens our understanding of how and why societies assign moral meanings to deadly diseases.
David S. Barnes is Assistant Professor at the Graduate Institute of the Liberal Arts, Emory University.