The French Enlightenment, Epidemiology, and Public Health

Mervyn Susser and Zena Stein

in Eras in Epidemiology

Published in print August 2009 | ISBN: 9780195300666
Published online September 2009 | e-ISBN: 9780199863754 | DOI:
The French Enlightenment, Epidemiology, and Public Health

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This chapter discusses advances in method applied to enumerating disease distributions through the 18th century. In France late in that century, the Enlightenment, followed by the climactic French Revolution with its slogan of liberty, equality, and fraternity, opened new intellectual avenues. A major change in the focus of the reigning intellectuals of the time created a new social and political consciousness and gave substance to new and literally revolutionary ideas. Central to this thinking was the idea of creating a freer and fairer society, goals clearly entailing improved conditions of life for the least fortunate. These ideas included concepts relevant to health, hence in the late 18th and early 19th century, a new social and epidemiological consciousness arose.

Keywords: epidemiological studies; numeracy; French Revolution; France; the Enlightenment

Chapter.  4728 words. 

Subjects: Public Health and Epidemiology

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