Tropical Medicine, German Imperialism, and the Local History of Sleeping Sickness at Lake Victoria and Lake Tanganyika, 1898-1914


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




This dissertation is a history of sleeping sickness in the Lake Victoria and Lake Tanganyika regions of East Africa, focusing on the preparation, implementation, and aftermath of sleeping sickness research and prevention programs in the early twentieth century. It explores how sleeping sickness research and prevention functioned at a nexus of African mobility, local and colonial political power, and developing ideas about disease prevention in tropical medicine. It argues that, contrary to medical history conceptions of colonial research and prevention programs as nationally bounded and highly centralized, sleeping sickness work in East Africa constantly adapted to contingent local circumstances. Local leaders and colonial scientists contended with African communities’ demands for treatment, resistance to examination, and claims on the use of land and waterways. Sleeping sickness research and prevention work created new economic relationships, reshaped existing social and political interactions, and set new ground rules for African agriculture and trade.