Advertisement

‘The Great Foe to the Reproduction of the Race’: Diagnosing and Treating Infertility Caused by Venereal Diseases, 1880–1914

  • Anne Hanley
Chapter

Abstract

Infertility was a source of great anxiety for childless couples and a subject of uncertainty and concern for doctors. Yet the specificities of infertility caused by venereal diseases have been overlooked. Medical authors at the turn of the twentieth century and historians in more recent decades have instead been preoccupied with the congenitally syphilitic child or the infant with gonorrhoeal ophthalmia neonatorum. This chapter remedies these historiographical gaps, addressing some of the more significant problems attendant upon diagnosing and treating infertility among infected men and women. Even with the development of bacteriological and serological testing, the venereal aetiology of a patient’s infertility was difficult to confirm. Venereal diseases did not always result in infertility and doctors found that many infertile patients showed few clear signs of infection. Having established the place of infertility within medical discourse and patient care, this chapter situates it within a wider eugenic framework of perceived degeneration and national efficiency.

Keywords

Gonorrhoea Medical knowledge Venereal disease Sterility Syphilis 

Research Resources

Primary Sources

  1. Robert Bell, Sterility (London: J & A Churchill, 1896).Google Scholar
  2. Alfred Cooper, Syphilis and Pseudo-Syphilis (London: J & A Churchill, 1884).Google Scholar
  3. Arthur Cooper, The Sexual Disabilities of Man and Their Treatment (London: H.K. Lewis, 1908).Google Scholar
  4. Arthur W. Edis, Sterility in Women: Including its Causation and Treatment (London: H.K. Lewis, 1890).Google Scholar
  5. Charles Robert Drysdale, Syphilis: Its Nature and Treatment with a Chapter on Gonorrhoea (London: Bailliere, Tindall and Cox, 1873).Google Scholar
  6. Samuel W. Gross, A Practical Treatise on Impotence, Sterility, and Allied Disorders of the Male Sexual Organs (Edinburgh: Young J. Pentland, 1887).Google Scholar
  7. M.K. Hargreaves, A Practical Manual of Venereal Diseases: Including Disorders of Generation, Spermatorrhœa, Prostatorrhœa, Impotence and Sterility in Both Sexes (London: R. Kimpton, 1887).Google Scholar
  8. Jonathan Hutchinson, Syphilis (London: Cassell and Co., 1887).Google Scholar
  9. Charles Leedham-Green, The Treatment of Gonorrhoea in the Male (London: Baillière, Tindall and Cox, 1906).Google Scholar
  10. Heinrich Oppenheimer, Some Practical Points in the Diagnosis and Treatment of Gonorrhoea in the Male (London: Rebman Company, 1903).Google Scholar
  11. Christabel Pankhurst, The Great Scourge and How to End It (London: E. Pankhurst, 1913).Google Scholar
  12. J. Beresford Ryley, Sterility in Women: Its Causes and Cure (London: Henry Renshaw, 1888).Google Scholar
  13. Robert Ultzmann, On Sterility and Impotence in Man (London: Arthur Cooper, 1887).Google Scholar
  14. Victor G. Vecki, The Pathology and Treatment of Sexual Impotence (London: W.B. Saunders and Co., 1901).Google Scholar
  15. David Watson, Gonorrhoea and its Complications in the Male and Female (London: Henry Kimpton, 1914).Google Scholar

Secondary Sources

  1. Peter Baldwin, Contagion and the State in Europe 1830–1930 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999).Google Scholar
  2. Victoria Bates, ‘“So Far as I can Define without a Microscopical Examination”: Venereal Disease Diagnosis in English Courts, 1850–1914’, Social History of Medicine, 26 (2013), 38–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Roger Davidson, Dangerous Liaisons: A Social History of Venereal Disease in Twentieth-Century Scotland (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2000).Google Scholar
  4. Gayle Davis, “The Cruel Madness of Love”: Sex, Syphilis and Psychiatry in Scotland, 1880–1930 (Amsterdam and New York: Rodopi, 2008).Google Scholar
  5. David Evans, ‘Tackling the “Hideous Scourge”: The Creation of the Venereal Disease Treatment Centres in Early Twentieth-Century Britain’, Social History of Medicine, 5 (1992), 413–33.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. K. Meghan Fitzpatrick, ‘Prostitutes, Penicillin and Prophylaxis: Fighting Venereal Disease in the Commonwealth Division during the Korean War, 1950–1953’, Social History of Medicine, 28 (2015), 555–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Anne Hanley, ‘“Scientific Truth into Homely Language”: The Training and Practice of Midwives in Ophthalmia Neonatorum, 1895–1914’, Social History of Medicine, 27 (2014), 199–220.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Anne Hanley, ‘Venereology at the Polyclinic: Postgraduate Medical Education among General Practitioners in England, 1899–1914’, Medical History, 59 (2015), 199–221.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Pauline M.H. Mazumdar, ‘“In the Silence of the Laboratory”: The League of Nations Standardizes Syphilis Tests’, Social History of Medicine, 16 (2003), 437–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Ornella Moscucci, The Science of Woman: Gynaecology and Gender in England, 1800–1929 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990).Google Scholar
  11. Chris Renwick, British Sociology’s Lost Biological Roots: A History of Futures Past (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012).Google Scholar
  12. J.E. Ross and S.M. Tomkins, ‘The British Reception of Salvarsan’, Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, 52 (1997), 398–423.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Joan Sherwood, Infection of the Innocents: Wet Nurses, Infants, and Syphilis in France, 1780–1900 (Montreal: McGill-Queens University Press, 2010).Google Scholar
  14. Richard A. Soloway, Demography and Degeneration: Eugenics and the Declining Birthrate in Twentieth-Century Britain (London: University of North Carolina Press, 1990).Google Scholar
  15. Mary Spongberg, Feminizing Venereal Disease: The Body of the Prostitute in Nineteenth-Century Medical Discourse (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 1997).Google Scholar
  16. Simon Szreter, ‘The Prevalence of Syphilis in England and Wales on the Eve of the Great War: Revisiting the Estimates of the Royal Commission on Venereal Diseases 1913–1916’, Social History of Medicine, 27 (2014), 508–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Daniel J. Walther, ‘Sex, Public Health and Colonial Control: The Campaign against Venereal Diseases in Germany’s Overseas Possessions, 1884–1914’, Social History of Medicine, 26 (2013), 182–203.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Michael Worboys, ‘Unsexing Gonorrhoea: Bacteriologists, Gynaecologists, and Suffragists in Britain, 1860–1920’, Social History of Medicine, 17 (2004), 41–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of OxfordOxfordUK

Personalised recommendations