Naming and Blaming?
By exploring the wide range of names given to the ‘new’ sexually transmitted disease—the Great Pox—this chapter dispels notions held for two centuries or more. Instead, no tit-for-tat-naming war among nations accused of carrying the disease ensued. The ‘French disease’ alone became standard in medical texts, but not among commoners and not after the late sixteenth century for physicians. The chapter challenges a second truism of the historiography: that naming meant blaming. Although the disease was named after the French, no laws or pogroms ensued against them or any other ‘other’. However, physicians increasingly identified humans as the essential carriers of this new disease and became concerned with tracking human contacts. By the end of the sixteenth century, medical texts had renamed it the territorially neutral lues venerea. Coincidently, with the rise of this new name, blame placed on women, the poor, and victims of the disease increased.
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