Treating a Young Colony: Doctors in the French Army of Africa, Fevers and Quinine, 1830-1870

Soldiers' Health, Between War and Peace: 1830-1930
By Claire Fredj

In Algeria, at the beginning of the colonial conquest, French soldiers were faced with a high rate of mortality due to malarial fevers. The treatment for malaria, sulfate of quinine, was developed in 1820 and its consumption increased substantially with the occupation of Algeria. Quinine became a commonly-used product by the military population, and even beyond, as military doctors also treated European and Algerian civilians in urban and rural areas. How, and in what form, did quinine enter the medical arsenal of army doctors, who were the main distributors of this medicine, and how did it spread across Algeria through the military and civilian populations? This paper explores how the military administration supplied the Army of Africa, and considers related economic issues—the military administration frequently expressed concern about the high costs of using this expensive product on a massive scale. The paper then focuses on how the populations in question adopted this medicine, and what this meant in terms of social demand for treatment.

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