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A Singular Remedy
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  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Expected online publication date: October 2020
  • Print publication year: 2020
  • Online ISBN: 9781108896269
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Book description

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.


‘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


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