International organizations throw up several obstacles—their immense scale, their dry bureaucratic language—to the historian trying to piece together their past. In her book, The Colonial Politics of Global Health: France and the United Nations in Postwar Africa (Harvard University Press, 2018), Jessica Lynne Pearson steers clear of these obstacles and tells a captivating and consequential story about the relationship between global governance and empires. And that is no small feat.
The Colonial Politics of Global Health recounts France’s collision with the UN and World Health Organization in the immediate post-World War II years. She shows how French colonial administrators and doctors resisted organizations devoted to “global health,” fearing that they would would ramp up anticolonialism and eventually help detach colonial territories from the metropole. She also shows how that resistance has left legacies that continue to affect Sub-Saharan Africa to this day.
The book should interest historians of empire, health and medicine, and global governance.
Dexter Fergie is a PhD student of US and global history at Northwestern University. He is currently researching the 20th century geopolitical history of information and communications networks. He can be reached by email at email@example.com or on Twitter @DexterFergie.
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