One of the main differences between Suriname, a society of mainly African (former) slaves, and the Dutch East Indies was that in the West Indies the main medical view on leprosy was that it was a contagious disease. In the Dutch East Indies international scientific debate was more influential; consequently in 1865 leprosy was declared a hereditary disease. Other differences relate to the vastness of the Dutch East Indies compared to Suriname, the more complex ethnic composition of the East and its enormous number of inhabitants. Furthermore, Suriname was occupied from the start of the period of inquiry, whereas the East was not completely under Dutch rule before the beginning of the twentieth century.
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