In The Ailing City: Health, Tuberculosis, and Culture in Buenos Aires, 1870–1950, Diego Armus provides a sweeping analysis of how tuberculosis shaped modernity and urban life in Argentina's largest city during the period between the discovery of the disease's cause and the development of effective treatments through antibiotics. This period, in which tuberculosis was widespread, easily transmitted, and difficult to treat, was characterized by uncertainty and fear for both the sick and the well. Armus shows how concerns about tuberculosis permeated urban life and intersected with broader sets of political, social, and cultural issues linked to rapid change and modernization. He argues that Buenos Aires became home to a kind of subculture surrounding tuberculosis, which influenced the emergence of the social hygiene movement and the eventual development of the public health system.

Armus's analysis is organized thematically rather than chronologically, with...

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