Health, Security, and Diplomacy in Historical Perspective

Authored by: Adam Kamradt-Scott

Routledge Handbook of Global Health Security

Print publication date:  August  2014
Online publication date:  August  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415645478
eBook ISBN: 9780203078563
Adobe ISBN: 9781136155574


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It has been periodically suggested that health-related diplomacy (now commonly described as “global health diplomacy”) is a new phenomenon (Adams et al. 2008; Feldbaum & Michaud 2010). It has also been suggested that the explicit linkages drawn in recent years between national/international security and health are somehow a novel development (see Aldis 2008). What these claims fundamentally fail to appreciate, however, is that there is in fact an extraordinarily long historical association between health and security. Moreover, diplomacy has often been the tool governments have employed to address these concerns. Indeed, the association between health, security, and diplomacy dates back to well before the signing of the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 C.E. that established the modern state system. The aim of this chapter is therefore to situate the contemporary interest in health security, and the response to health security threats, in historical context. To that end, the chapter commences by examining some of the initial diplomatic efforts to protect local, national, and international communities from threats to human health before examining more contemporary endeavors. While the narrative presented here is by no means intended to be all-inclusive, it hopefully serves to provide the reader with a fuller understanding of how health security and health diplomacy should be seen as enduring features of international politics.

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