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Modernization Projects: Population Control

1. From ‘colonial medicine’ to ‘international health’

Colonial medicine

Military medicine

Cordon sanitaire; white towns and black towns

Crisis management: epidemic disease (small pox, cholera, plague,)

Mission medicine

From a slow start to the main mode of mission work:

the nineteenth century

The ‘double-cure’

Tropical medicine

Germ theory (1870s)

Vectors (1890s)

Ronald Ross, Patrick Manson, G. B. Grassi and malaria

Teaching and research: state and capital

Liverpool and London (1899)

Colonial development and the role of health

Rockefeller medicine

London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (1929)

Yellow fever



2. Health and development in the postwar world

Industry, economic development and health

(cf. contemporary examples like SARS and avian ’flu)

The invention of international health

World Health Organisation


3. Colonial-postcolonial continuities

Vertical Limit: Malaria and DDT (1940-1960s)

‘vertical’ v ‘horizontal’ interventions

Inequalities of health

Economic benefits of health

Disease models

Technology and dependency


4. Population control in India: Key points


Birth control in the early twentieth century: Urban men and international women

The Madras Neo-Malthusian League (est 1928) and Marie Stopes, Margaret Sanger and Eileen Palmer in the 1930s

Gandhian opposition

Eugenics in India (publishing)

Birth control at independence: Nehru v Gandhi; Women's Role in Planned Economy

World Health Organization pilot projects (rhythm method)

Internationalizing population control- 1950s and 1960s

Cold War context (pace Green Revolution)

Demographic Transition Theory: Frank Notestein, Office of Population Research, Princeton University (funded by the Population Council/Rockefeller)

Kingsley Davis, The Population of India and Pakistan (1951).

Population control and the Indian state: continuity and change; neo-Malthusian triumphs - 1970s and 1980s

From family welfare to population control

Sterilization, the poor, Sanjay Gandhi and the 'Emergency' (1975-77)

Denouement: targets

After Cairo: From 'population control' to 'reproductive health'

UNFP- International Conference on Population and Development ('Cairo consensus'), 1994

First world v third world feminisms

Call for the removal of 'targets' and for an integrated approach to health care rather than a narrow focus on fertility

Kerala v Tamil Nadu and Bangladesh

Towards the twenty-first century: Not China and the planned rewards of a 'demographic bump'

Furedi: An Overview

Main question

If development is primarily concerned with the framing of poverty, is there a link between population and development?

Is there a link between poverty and population?

Is population growth really a problem?

Main argument

This question (and its derivatives) is a tricky one, because ‘population’ is usually not about population

Intellectual stages of the encounter between population and development

  1. (1940-1955) At the outset, the evolution of the academic discipline of development was directly influenced by emerging apprehensions about the effects of population growth in the South. In this stage- the forties and much of the fifties- development was promoted as a solution to the population problem.
  2. (1955-1975) The relationship was reversed. More and more, specialists argued that population control was the prerequisite for development. Their contention was that population control would help overcome the obstacles that stood in the way of development. [technofixes]
  3. (1975- ) The link between population and development has diminished in significance. The difficulty of maintaining a plausible linkage between population and development has led to a reorientation of the discussion since the seventies. [fertility qua fertility; modernisation without development]