International Leprosy Association -
History of Leprosy

  • International Leprosy Association -
    History of Leprosy


    In nineteenth-century Spain, leprosy became a matter of concern along the Mediterranean coast. In 1878, a medical census was conducted that included leprosy, and 2000 affected people were detected in the region of Valencia alone. Dr Zuriaga attended the International Leprosy Conference in Berlin and presented a paper in the section on the geography of leprosy. His map shows cases in various villages. (Milnes 138) After Spain surrendered the Philippines, some of the priests who returned would have brought the disease with them.


    Josep Bernabeu-Mestre and Teresa Ballester-Artigues,Disease as a Metaphorical Resource: The Fontilles Philanthropic Initiative in the Fight Against Leprosy, 1901–1932” Social History of Medicine 17.3 (2004): 409-421.

    The worsening of the leprosy problem in Spain during the final decades of the nineteenth century and the initial decades of the twentieth century made it possible for missionary and philanthropic activities to recover one of the most productive parables of charity. Medical care for leprosy patients became a monopoly of religious organizations and charity associations. A social imagery was generated around those initiatives in which the metaphorical dimension of the disease reinforced social control mechanisms through lepers’ exclusion and segregation. On the basis of the study of the philanthropic initiative that led to the opening of the Fontilles (Vall de Laguar, Alicante, Spain) leper colony in 1909, this paper analyses the key aspects explaining those images as well as their consequences.