Combating sexual diseases in the Iberian dictatorships in the 20th century

Numerous historical case studies have investigated measures to combat sexual diseases in authoritarian post-WW II regimes like the German Democratic Republic and various dictatorships in eastern Europe in a microhistorical perspective. A common practice of these actions featured individuals presumably suffering from a sexual disease by isolating them at closed venereological wards. In these institutions, radical disciplinary actions were executed by medically not indicated, questionable treatments and ideological drill. By taking these extreme measures, the aim of the involved political ideologies was to decrease suspected danger in a socialist society. These treatments constituted a form of repression to suppress and to isolate persons whose way of life was not in accordance with the regime’s ideology.

Based on current research, this project investigates comparable institutions to combat sexual diseases in the Iberian dictatorships in the 20th century. It aims to explore if or in which way medicine was politicised to sanction deviant behaviour in these authoritarian regimes. In doing so, on the one hand, parallels should be drawn. On the other hand, the impact of socio-political specifics as for example the huge influence of the Catholic church in Southern Europe should be investigated. Starting with Madrid and Barcelona, institutions to fight sexual diseases in Spain under Franco’s dictatorship (1939-1975) will be investigated, aiming to examine whether any form of repression was executed in that aspect and if there were any differences between regions with strong self-government ambitions as Catalonia and rather centralist areas. Subsequently, similar Portuguese institutions in the time of António de Oliveira Salazar’s “Estado Novo” are investigated.

The project is based on official documents from the Ministries of Health, the city councils and the medical institutions as well as on non-official sources as personal letters, photographs, newspaper articles and oral history interviews.

Based at the Institute of the History, Philosophy and Ethics of Medicine of the University Ulm headed by Prof. Dr. Florian Steger, this project highlights the history of repression in contemporary Iberian dictatorships from a medico-historical aspect. Furthermore, it will contribute to the transnational history of venereal diseases and medicine in the 20th century.



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