Guest Lecture: Timothy D. Walker, “Medicine and Slavery in the Lusophone Atlantic World: Evolving Healing Practices of a Colonial Physician in Eighteenth-Century Brazil and Angola”, Glasgow

Location: TalkLab Room, University of Glasgow Library

Date: 5pm, Thursday 12th October 2017

The Camões Institute and Medical Humanities Research Centre at the University of Glasgow are delighted to announce a visiting lecture by Timothy D. Walker (University of Massachusetts Dartmouth), on “Medicine and Slavery in the Lusophone Atlantic World: Evolving Healing Practices of a Colonial Physician in Eighteenth-Century Brazil and Angola”. All are welcome!


Portuguese colonization included a significant dimension of medical inquiry, effected through observation of and close interaction with indigenous peoples.  Sustained high losses of human capital due to illness in the tropics — not only among Europeans, but also among valuable enslaved persons in the Atlantic and Indian Ocean contexts — prompted crown authorities in the metropôle to call for the systematic collection of useful colonial materia medica.  Lusophone physicians and surgeons across the empire compiled information about their evolving healing methods, which necessarily drew on ideas and techniques that developed through practical direct treatment of untold thousands of patients in Angola and Brazil:  principally Africans, but also European colonists and native Americans.  At the very peak of the transatlantic slave trade, colonial médicos described useful medicinal herbs and simples, as well as innovative medical techniques, learned in response to the unique health care imperatives confronted in the environmental and social contexts of the Lusophone South Atlantic enclaves.

This presentation will discuss how European-trained conventional medical practitioners adapted their methods to circumstances in the tropical southern Atlantic, where a high percentage of the people they interacted with and treated, be they of African or indigenous American descent, were enslaved or compelled laborers.  Thus, the assimilation, circulation, and application of diverse medical knowledge occurred in a context of highly active cross-cultural sharing.  This illustrated talk will consist mainly of a discussion of the recently published volume Essays on Some Maladies of Angola, the first English translation of José Pinto de Azeredo’s pioneering work, Ensaios sobre algumas enfermidades de Angola (Lisbon: 1799).  This new edition, published by Tagus Press and the University Press of New England in April 2016, was translated by Stewart Lloyd-Jones (University of Stirling/ISCTE-IUL). Timothy Walker, who coordinated work on the volume and was the principal editor, will discuss the project, its historical significance, and the challenges involved in conveying a complex Enlightenment-era medical treatise to a modern general audience.

The original author, José Pinto de Azeredo (1764–1810) was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, trained in medicine in Portugal and in Scotland at the University of Edinburgh (1786-88); he finished his studies at Leiden, the Netherlands, where he earned a doctorate in medicine. The Portuguese crown then posted him to Angola as the colony’s chief medical officer.  He practiced in Luanda for nearly a decade at the end of the eighteenth century, where he observed methods of indigenous African folk healers.  Essays on Some Maladies of Angola is a unique medical text describing evolving healing practices in Africa at the peak of the transatlantic slave trade.


Dr. Timothy Walker is a professor of history at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.  At UMD, he serves as campus Fulbright Program Adviser (faculty and students); prior posts include Director of Tagus Press and Director of the UMass in Lisbon Study Abroad Program.  He is a member of the graduate faculty of the Department of Portuguese Studies, and an affiliated faculty member of the Center of Indian Studies and Program in Women’s Studies.  Walker is also an Affiliated Researcher of the Centro de História d’Aquém e d’Além-Mar (CHAM); Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Portugal.  From 1994 to 2003, he was a visiting professor at the Universidade Aberta in Lisbon.  During Fall Term 2010 Walker was a visiting professor at Brown University.

Walker serves on the editorial board of the journal Social History of Medicine.  He is the recipient of a Fulbright dissertation fellowship to Portugal (1996-1997), a doctoral research fellowship from the Portuguese Camões Institute (1995-1996), and a NEH-funded American Institute for Indian Studies Professional Development Grant for post-doctoral work in India (2000-2002).  Walker has also been named a fellow of the Portuguese Orient Foundation (Fundação Oriente), the Luso-American Development Foundation (2003 & 2008), and has held a Wellcome Trust Travel Grant to the Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine at University College, London (Spring 2003).  Walker also worked as a Lisbon-based researcher (1999-2001) on the Atlantic Slave Trade CD-ROM Database Project (Cambridge U. Press; D. Eltis, S. Behrendt & D. Richardson) and on the Global History of Leprosy Project, Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine, Oxford University (2003).  During the 2003-2004 academic year, Walker taught for the University of Pittsburgh Semester at Sea program.  From 2005 to 2007 he held a U. C. Davis/Mars Research Fellowship while working on the “Colonial Chocolate Project,” coordinated through the University of California Davis Department of Nutrition.  He remained a project consultant for the Historical Division of Mars, Inc., through 2011.  In 2007, Walker was named a senior researcher on a National Science Foundation-funded project to study the competitive sharing of contested religious sites around the globe (2007-2011).  Beginning in December 2010 he held a fellowship from the Gulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon, Portugal, to support the writing of a new monograph on Indo-Portuguese colonial medicine and hybridized medical culture.  Walker was named a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow (July 2012-June 2013).

Event contact: Dr Luís Gomes

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