The Journal of Caribbean History: Volume 40, Issue 1

Article 1
Diseases and Medical Disabilities of Enslaved Barbadians, from the Seventeenth Century to around 1838 (Part I)

Jerome S. Handler


The disease environment, health problems, and causes of mortality of enslaved Barbadians are described. Data largely derive from documentary sources; also included are bio-archaeological data from analyses of skeletons recovered from Newton Plantation cemetery. Major topics include infectious diseases transmitted from person to person, as well as those contracted through water, soil, and other environmental contaminations, and diseases transmitted by insects, parasites, and other animals; nutritional diseases, including protein energy malnutrition, vitamin deficiencies, anaemia, and geophagy or “dirt eating”; dental pathologies; and lead poisoning, alcoholism, traumas, and other disorders, including psychogenic death or illness caused by beliefs in witchcraft or sorcery