Studying the plague that ravaged the port city of Oporto, Portugal at the turn of the 20th century first confronts us with a plethora of diverse stakeholders implicated at multiple levels: state and private, local and international, spanning from diplomatic agencies to scientific and medical experts. Analysing the role of each of these actors in the management and containment of the epidemic gives us a view on the science and the diplomacy dimensions of the events.
Looking back at the 1899 plague in Oporto also means examining what happened at the time in terms of the globalisation of epidemics and the internationalisation of health regulations. Céline Paillette investigates the presence of diplomacy particularly – but not only – in the sense of state-enacted foreign policies, and looks at the ways in which that kind of State Health Diplomacy might have nourished what is today termed Global Health Diplomacy.
As a historian and specialist of international relations, Céline Paillette approaches the case analysis with multiple questions. How did the various fundamental forces in international relations influence…
Moreover, what was the weight of public opinion on the enactment of sanitary measures such as the closing of ports, the isolation of individuals, or inspection and disinfection?
To what extent were the practical field experiments in bacteriology conducted by foreign and local experts, as well as the implantation of therapeutic and preventative treatment, part of a thought-out strategy of diplomacy at state level? To what extent did the “diplomatic machine” guide and support said strategy?
Finally, in what ways did the various national interests at play align with a common, global interest? What was the place of global interest in the make-up of national interests and state foreign policies?
The historian’s questions illuminate the need for a multidimensional analysis and understanding of the ‘science diplomacy dimension’, informed in Céline Paillette’s work by tenets of international relations and by the examination of original sources.
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