Inventing Caribbean Climates

Mark Carey, “Inventing Caribbean Climates: How Science, Medicine and Tourism Changed Tropical Weather from Deadly to Healthy,” Osiris 26, no. 1 (2011): 129-141.

In this piece, Carey traces changing European and North American perceptions of Caribbean climates from 1750-1950. He argues that these understandings were not shaped only by the climactic science; rather, they were constructed around multiple considerations, including “…environmental conditions, knowledge systems, social relations, politics, and economics.” (129) Carey understands these ideas, then, to be culturally constructed and argues, in line with most recent studies on climate, for the cultural construction of climate.

“Climate constructions…changed over time and were dependent upon where observers went, why they went there, which geographical features they saw, who they encountered, how landscapes looked to them, and what scientific knowledge they had.” (131)

Goes through perceived salubrity of mountains and wind (133-34); no professional medical perspectives represented, though. Links belief in windy, mountainous areas to lingering miasmatic understandings of disease.

“For many, these winds had the potential to purify the spirit, rejuvenate the body, and prevent illness — as if the wind blew away diseases before they could infect a person.” (134)

Discussion of the social situation of an area being linked to understanding its climate; post-revolution Haiti was less healthy, ruled as it was by former slaves. (135)

Proximity to urban spaces also factored in; “Such preferences for the climate of rural, less crowded areas corresponded with nineteenth-century romanticism, which tended to privilege pastoral, rural, and even sublime landscapers over those of increasingly industrialized and polluted areas.” (135)
I feel like ES was trying to appeal to this class of customer; disillusioned/bothered by St. Louis and its health issues, rural ES was a healthful escape.

George Washington travelled to Barbados for health reasons! Cool.

“Dr. William Hillary… wrote on the effects of rainfall and temperature on diseases, explicitly following the theories of Hippocrates and referring to the ancient thinker as ‘that wise father and prince of physicians.'” (136)
Decided link to Hippocratic medicine in study of climate & disease by a laaate 18th century physician. 

Highlights role that germ theory and mosquitos as vectors had on de-pathologizing tropical climates. When were mosquitos identified as vectors for malaria?

“Breezes, mountains, trees, and temperature were the main criteria used to define salubrious versus unhealthy climates.” (141)


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