Stefanie Gänger explores how medical knowledge was shared across societies tied to the Atlantic World between 1751 and 1820. Centred on Peruvian bark or cinchona, Gänger shows how that remedy and knowledge about its consumption – formulae for bittersweet, 'aromatic' wines, narratives about its discovery or beliefs in its ability to prevent fevers – were understood by men and women in varied contexts. These included Peruvian academies and Scottish households, Louisiana plantations and Moroccan court pharmacies alike. This study in plant trade, therapeutic exchange, and epistemic brokerage shows how knowledge weaves itself into the fabric of everyday medical practice in different places.
Introduction. A singular remedy
I.1 The outlines of cinchona
I.2 An appraisal of the historiography
I.3 Book structure
1. Origin stories
1.1 Unalienable truths
1.2 Botanists by instinct
1.3 Illiterate saviours
2. The demands of humanity
2.1 World bark trade
2.2 Geographies of consumption
2.3 Limits to distribution
3. Community of practice
3.1 'Proper evacuations'
3.2 Preparations of the bark
3.3 Proprietary medicines
4. Febrile situations
4.1 Marshes and wetlands
4.2 Cities, ships and camps
4.3 'Hot climates'
5. Harvests of change
5.1 The growth regions
5.2 The spectre of extinction
5.3 The bark cutters
Conclusion. A plant of the world
Stefanie Gänger is a Professor of Modern History at Heidelberg University, Germany.
"Building on extensive research in archives and libraries across various continents, A Singular Remedy follows the pathways of how cinchona and the stories and practices associated with it travelled and were shared across epistemic systems, medical traditions, tastes, social divides, and religious beliefs."
– Miruna Achim, Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana, Mexico City
"Almost half a century ago, the great French historian Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie alerted us to the 'microbial unification of the world'. That lesson has been brought home to drastic effect during the 2020 coronavirus pandemic. In her learned and sparkling study of the global career of cinchona, Stefanie Gänger tells a counter-story: the unification of much of the world through a 'singular' medicinal substance."
– Jürgen Osterhammel, Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies
"Gänger follows cinchona down an astonishing range of paths, demonstrating that this was a quintessentially global product of the age of revolutions, but nevertheless keeps the Andes and its forests, peoples and coercive labour regimes in central view. She complicates a global economic history of the bark by recovering the contingent cultural practices that were used to cure an imprecise condition. Admirably nuanced, researched across languages, and beautifully written, this is global history at its best today."
– Sujit Sivasundaram, University of Cambridge
"One of the most impressive features of the book is the extensive range of archival and secondary sources on which it draws. A Singular Remedy is a welcome addition to the literature. This book is for not just medical historians but anyone interested in the global history of knowledge."
– Linda A. Newson, Hispanic American Historical Review
"Gänger's study examines how medical knowledge was dispersed, shared, and adopted throughout the Atlantic World in the late 18th century and beyond [...] Specialists in pharmacological history will enjoy reading this, but so will anyone interested in the Atlantic world or the histories of medicine, science, and material culture. Highly recommended."
– J. Rankin, Choice Connect
"Her study is not only an impressive contribution to scholarship on the circulation of medicinal substances, but also an outstanding example of how to integrate material practice and geographical scope into the history of science."
– Anna Simmons, History of Science, Technology, and Medicine
"a valuable resource for those examining early modern trade, empire, medicine, and ideas from a range of methods or disciplines [...] Given the success of the approach in A Singular Remedy, the lessons deserve to be applied elsewhere."
– Zachary Dorner, Journal of Interdisciplinary History