International Leprosy Association -
History of Leprosy

  • International Leprosy Association -
    History of Leprosy

    About this site

    Sasakawa Memorial Health Foundation is delighted to present this fully renovated and renamed website International Leprosy Association – History of Leprosy.  It has been our dream to restructure and rebuild the authoritative Global Project on the History of Leprosy website, bringing it up to date and making it more user-friendly. We hope the new-look site will serve as an entry point for as many people as possible to the rich legacy of the history of leprosy.   We will continue adding content as we believe that this legacy is an asset to the history of humanity.   We would like to offer special thanks to Dr. Josephine Robertson for her invaluable input, without which none of this would have been possible.

    January 28, 2016
    Sasakawa Memorial Health Foundation

    *On April 1, 2019, Sasakawa Memorial Health Foundation changed its name
    to Sasakawa Health Foundation.


    About the International Leprosy Association’s Global Project on the History of Leprosy

    When the International Leprosy Association’s Global Project on the History of Leprosy began more than fifteen years ago, it aimed to develop a database of descriptions of leprosy archives from around the world. We wanted to preserve the records that stood testimony to the extraordinary work done against the disease. We also wanted people to use these raw materials to write the many histories of leprosy just waiting to be unearthed. The database was designed to create pathways for researchers, to encourage the preservation of archives, and to establish a network of researchers. Our starting point was1847, when Danielssen and Boëck published Om Spedalskhed. We described collections of organisational, policy, scientific and medical archives, as well as leprosaria records, museums and libraries. We included some private collections of those who worked in the field. We hoped that it would pique the interest of people who work in this field. We hoped most of all that it would resonate with people affected by the disease. We also hoped to interest the casual and curious passer-by.

    Even though nearly 220,000 people are still infected with the disease every year, today most people have forgotten about leprosy, even while they have a vague notion that it is a horrible disease that is best shunned. Yet many, many people all over the world, rich and poor, in tropical countries and in cold countries, have suffered from it. Many have had to endure draconian public health measures that froze their lives in institutions and sundered their ties with all they held dear.

    We hope to keep leprosy in all its facets in contemporary focus and to draw attention to something very exciting. For from 1981 on, doctors arrived at the means and ways of treating the disease, and people were freed from its devastating effects. This remarkable work and the records associated with it have been preserved.

    Throughout its existence, the project was fully funded by the Nippon Foundation which has, through its own initiatives and through the initiatives of the Sasakawa Memorial Health Foundation, invested heavily in anti-leprosy work in all its forms, medical, social, humanitarian, and historical, for more than forty years.

    Today the once novel project of 2001-2007, of a database and website, has become unremarkable, so with the support of the Sasakawa Memorial Health Foundation, the project has been given a new look and reorientation. It is hopefully more inclusive so that people whose lives have been sacrificed on the pyre of leprosy can find a point of reference and solidarity in the testimonies and the display of works of cultural and artistic production that testify to their resilience and spirit.

    Jo Robertson PhD MA BA (Honours)
    School of Communication & Arts
    University of Queensland



    Unless otherwise indicated, all articles under Geographical Region, Leprosy and Its Impact, blog posts and updates to the original database for the 2016 re-launch are the work of Dr. Josephine Robertson and copyright in the content of these articles is the property of the University of Queensland under Australian copyright law.

    This site also includes content for which the copyright belongs to third parties and which has been included with their permission.

    Content may be used freely, with attribution, for research, study and educational purposes. To request permission for commercial use, please contact Sasakawa Memorial Health Foundation.


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