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Keywords:

  • Cuba;
  • epidemics;
  • diffusion;
  • war;
  • Spain;
  • demography

This paper examines the spatial transmission and rate of propagation of three infectious diseases (enteric fever, smallpox and yellow fever) in times of war and peace in Cuba between 1895 and 1898. For the three diseases studied, the analysis will demonstrate that, compared with peacetime, the Cuban Insurrection caused increased epidemiological integration of the settlement system of Cuba, acceleration of the spatial processes of disease transmission and a marked change in the geographical drift of infectious disease activity. While the first two findings may be attributed to the heightened levels of population mixing that accompanied the insurrection, the third implies that hostilities fundamentally altered the spatial courses of diseases. These changes transcended stark biases in the predisposition to infection among Spanish soldiers (to yellow fever) and Cuban civilians (to smallpox). Finally, it is shown that the military were the prime agents causing contrasts in the epidemiological experience of Cuba between war and peace.