Between sin and disease
Venereal diseases (VD) have always been associated with the idea of sin, an individual punishment for committed vice. Yet, from the late 19th century, these pathologies gradually emerged under a new light in western societies as a collective health threat that necessitated public health action. This book documents a remarkable and nowadays largely forgotten history of public health action against VD in Belgium from the late 19th century. It also departs from the rudimentary historical-comparisons that have often been made between a scientific' and rational' management of AIDS and a dark' past of moral panic, victim blaming and ostracism. In particular the common thesis that VD became increasingly medicalised and lost its moral significance over time is questioned. This book proposes an alternative, more comprehensive, historical-sociological reading of the changing social reactions to VD in 19th and 20th century Belgium, understanding it as the result of interrelated changes in the domains of medicine, public health government and sexual morality.