No Magic Bullet: A Social History of Venereal Disease in the United States since 1880- 35th Anniversary Edition

ISBN : 9780190863425

Allan M. Brandt
344 Pages
156 x 235 mm
Pub date
Aug 2020
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From Victorian anxieties about syphilis to the current hysteria over herpes and AIDS, the history of venereal disease in America forces us to examine social attitudes as well as purely medical concerns. In No Magic Bullet, Allan M. Brandt recounts the various medical, military, and public health responses that have arisen over the years-a broad spectrum that ranges from the incarceration of prostitutes during World War I to the establishment of required premarital blood tests. Brandt demonstrates that Americans' concerns about venereal disease have centered around a set of social and cultural values related to sexuality, gender, ethnicity, and class. At the heart of our efforts to combat these infections, he argues, has been the tendency to view venereal disease as both a punishment for sexual misconduct and an index of social decay. This tension between medical and moral approaches has significantly impeded efforts to develop "magic bullets"-drugs that would rid us of the disease-as well as effective policies for controlling the infections' spread. In this 35th anniversary edition of No Magic Bullet, Brandt reflects on recent scholarship, the persistence of sexually transmitted diseases, and the trajectory of the HIV epidemic, as they have informed contemporary conceptions of biomedicine and global health.


Introduction: Sex, Disease, and Medicine
I. Damaged Goods: Progressive Medicine and Social Hygiene
II. Fit to Fight: The Commission on Training Camp Activities
III. The Cleanest Army in the World: Venereal Disease and the AEF
IV. Shadow on the Land: Thomas Parran and the New Deal
V. Dr. Ehrlich's Magic Bullet: Venereal Disease in the Age of Antibiotics
VI. Plagues and Peoples: The AIDS Epidemic
Afterword to 35th Anniversary Edition
Note on Sources
Manuscript Sources

About the author: 

Allan M. Brandt is Amalie Moses Kass Professor of the History of Medicine and Professor of the History of Science at Harvard University. He is the prize-winning author of The Cigarette Century: The Rise, Fall, and Deadly Persistence of the Product that Defined America.

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