By Karen Jochelson
Today AIDS dominates the headlines, but a century ago it was fears of syphilis epidemics. This book looks at how the spread of syphilis was linked to socio-economic transformation as land dispossession, migrancy and urbanization disrupted social networks--factors similarly important in the AIDS crisis. Medical explanations of syphilis and state medical policy were also shaped by contemporary beliefs about race. Doctors drew on ideas from social darwinism, eugenics, and social anthropology to explain the incidence of syphilis among poor whites and Africans, and to define "normal" abnormal sexual behavior for racial groups.