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Leprosy: A Short History

The Centre for Global Health Histories’ latest publication Leprosy: A Short History (by Orient BlackSwan) was globally launched on 6th May 2016. Following the 97th WHO Global Health Histories Seminar, focusing on Leprosy, a global launch event was held to celebrate this book at Fiocruz, Rio de Janeiro. 

Leprosy: A Short History presents critical perspectives on the disease, examining leprosy’s impact on society at different times, from the medieval period up to the present day, and from regional, national to local perspectives. The book provides intriguing and thought-provoking examples, which aims to inspire debate and further attention towards the disease and its significant role in the history of public health.

*Leprosy: A Short History is available for download online here.*

May's launch event at Fiocruz, Rio de Janeiro, has been recorded an made available via YouTube!

It gathers together contributions from a global network of authors, to pose introductions to the subject matter, answer questions, and inspire further research. Each author adds their own ideas which, in a short space, tackle difficult historical issues and contribute to the wider field of study. The articles are complemented by a gallery of feature photographs, selected from a variety of libraries and repositories: they are chosen to highlight important issues in the history of leprosy, and relate directly to the chapters in the book. Leprosy: A Short History is a bilingual book, published in both English and Portuguese, side by side. 

Leprosy Cover,  

“Leprosy is an ancient disease, responsible for a great deal of human suffering over several millennia. This suffering has taken many forms: leprosy possesses the capacity to harm the body, causing characteristic damage to hands, skin, feet and mouth, but the afflicted have also at time been ostracised from their communities and families, suffering stigma as a result of the disease.”

“The efforts to control and eliminate leprosy, to alleviate the suffering of those afflicted by the disease, offers a rich and complex history, one which helps to frame and appreciate some of the current challenges posed by leprosy."


Foreword: Dr Margaret Chan (Director-General, World Health Organisation)

Introduction: Alexander Medcalf, Monica Saavedra, Magali Romero Sá, Sanjoy Bhattacharya

1) Yohei Sasakawa - Passing on the History of Leprosy to Future Generations

2) Patrick Zylberman - The “Visible Sin”: Leprosy in Medieval Europe

3) Sethina Watson - Responding to Leprosy in the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries

4) Hiroki Nakatani - Leprosy as a Path-finder for New Global Health

5) Michio Miyasaka - Leprosy in the Western Pacific and Japan

6) John Manton - Leprosy in Africa

7) James Staples - Leprosy’s Journey in India

8) Euzenir Nunes Sarno, Mauricio Lisboa Nobre, Ximena Illarramendi - Revisiting the History of Leprosy in Brazil

9) Cassandra White - Leprosy and Migration: Treatment Challenges and Stigma

10) Monica Saavedra, Elizabeth Bara, Favita Dias - From Segregation to Elimination in a Locality: Leprosy in Goa, c. 1925-2015

11) Alexander Medcalf - Leprosy: Spreading the Elimination Message

This is the latest in a line of similarly-styled publications, (see also Health for All: The Journey to Universal Health Coverage, Tropical Diseases: Lessons from History, and Tuberculosis: A Short History). Leprosy: A Short History is available for download online here.

This has been a collaboration between the following organisations: The WHO Collaborating Centre for Global Health Histories, FIOCRUZ, Sasakawa Memorial Health Foundation and The Nippon Foundation. All at CGHH would like to express our gratitude to all of the authors involved in this project, the WHO Global Health Histories initiative and to the University of York’s Department of History, Orient BlackSwan, and the Wellcome Trust for their generous support of this project. We hope you enjoy the book.