In seventeenth- and eighteenth-century England, the Grand Tour, sex, and venereal disease became almost indivisible in the public imagination. The Grand Tour was an essential element of a well-born man's education. Yet a persistent belief developed that continental travel was infecting the youth of England with debilitating disease, and that they were bringing disease home to harm the nation. The belief sprang from medical ignorance and xenophobia, but also from the usefulness of associating pox with the Grand Tour, a rhetorical move that helped to palliate domestic medical problems, enrich sectors of the British economy, and lay groundwork for changes in the control of political power—and that has persisted into our own era's conception of the Grand Tour.

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