This lecture examines the role of accounting and financial practices in the ideation of models for the quantification of human bodies, disease, population health, and risk in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth-century world of the transatlantic slave trade. Pablo Gomez considers the conceptual logic appearing in the registration and bureaucratization of the value of slave bodies, and their insertion in the logic of the early modern state and its mercantile economies. He argues that the constitutive elements of what would later become known as medical arithmetics, and ideas about possibilities for the quantification of risk as related to human bodies and disease, appears for the first time in widely used models for the registration and bureaucratization of the value of slave bodies, and their insertion in the organizational language of early modern Iberian states and their mercantile economies. The acts of registering enslaved African’s bodies nominal values in contracts predicted in quantifiable terms their behavior and production (as groups), and calculated revenue both from their labor, and from taxation and financial gains. These ideas shaped methodologies for the organization and taxonomizing of human bodies’ worth, while transforming political, social, and economic relationships between individuals and the state.
Pablo Gomez, Assistant Professor of History and History of Medicine at the University of Wisconsin-Madison
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