A physician's account of the slave trade

Frank, Ludwig. Memoire sur le Commerce des Negres.

Paris, Migneret, 1802.

8vo. 52 pp. Stitched as issued with paper spine.


First edition. While in Egypt Bonaparte employed Frank as a physician to the occupying French army; during his five years there, he became involved in the Cairo sanitary commission and so was able to compile relevant information for this work. It commences with a discussion of the common ways people became enslaved: war, kidnapping, and trespass, where a perpetrator's child would be enslaved as punishment. He gives a vivid description of slave caravans and disproves many of the prejudices held by Europeans on the Cairo slave trade. The medical section describes seven common afflictions suffered: colds, eye problems, smallpox, skin diseases, diarrhea and dysentery, the plague, and Guinea worm. There is also a five-page section on female genital mutilation, as well as a list of prices for women, children and eunuchs.

"The value of Frank's brief treatise on the slave trade in Cairo lies in two aspects. The first is the purely descriptive account that he offers about the slave trade, the attitudes and prejudices of slave owners and dealers, and his review of the diseases and problems encountered by slaves as they moved from the limited biological environment of the Sudan to the more disease-prone Mediterranean world. On a second level, Dr. Frank's mémoire provides a glimpse into the attitudes of an early nineteenth-century European observer of slavery in the Islamic world" (Le Gall, 70).

Ludwig (Louis) Frank (1761-1825) was a nephew of the famous physician Johann Peter Frank and was educated at Göttingen and later Milan. A peripatetic soul, he moved to Malta, Rhodes and Egypt, before travelling to France and eventually settling in Parma, where he was made personal physician to Duchess Marie Louise.

Text evenly toned. A very good copy of this little-known work by the German physician.


Hirsch II, 601. Kress, 18565. Work, p. 228. Not in Marchand; Le Gall, M, "Translation of Louis Frank's Mémoire sur le commerce des nègres au Kaire..." in Marmon, Shaun E. ed, Slavery in the Islamic Middle East. Princeton, 1999, pp. 69-88.

Art.-Nr.: BN#62151 Schlagwörter: , , ,