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Week 13: Settling Africa

The hostile disease environment of central Africa stymied efforts to explore and colonise the continent, with high rates of European morbidity and mortality contributing to the impression that Africa was ‘the white man’s grave.’ Survival rates began to improve in the nineteenth century, allowing for Western powers to compete for territory and resources, often accompanied by missionaries who used their medical knowledge to establish their place in local communities. In this session, we’ll look at the part played by medicine in facilitating the conquest of Africa, as well as its role in establishing authority and consolidating control over the indigenous population.


Discussion Questions:

-To what extent was disease an obstacle to the colonization of Africa?

-Why did Africa’s reputation as ‘the white man’s grave’ alter over the course of the nineteenth century?

-How was medicine used as a tool of colonization in Africa?

-What role did missionaries play in disseminating medical knowledge and practice in Africa?


Background Reading:

Pratik Chakrabarti, Medicine and Empire, 1600-1960 (Basingstoke, 2014), ‘Ch. 7: Medicine and the Colonisation of Africa,’ pp.122-140

Required Readings:

**Jean Comaroff, ‘The Diseased Heart of Africa: Medicine, Colonialism, and the Black Body’, in Shirley Lindenbaum and Margaret Lock (eds.), Knowledge, Power, and Practice: The 
Anthropology of Medicine and Everyday Life (Berkeley, 1993), 305-329. [extracts]

*Philip D. Curtin, ‘The End of the “White Man’s Grave”? Nineteenth-Century Mortality in West Africa’, Journal of Interdisciplinary History, 21 (1990), 63-88. [e-journal]

*Harriet Deacon, ‘Racism and Medical Science in South Africa's Cape Colony in the Mid-to Late Nineteenth Century’, Osiris, 15 (2000), 190-206. [e-journal]

**Daniel R. Headrick, The Tools of Empire: Technology and European Imperialism in the Nineteenth Century (Oxford, 1981), 'Ch. 3: Malaria, Quinine and the Penetration of Africa,' pp. 58-81

*Maryinez Lyons, The Colonial Disease. A Social History of Sleeping Sickness in Northern Zaire, 1900-1940 (Cambridge, 1992). 'Ch. 7: The Campaign. Part One: Sleeping Sickness and Social Medicine', pp. 102-136 [e-book]

Further Readings:

Morag Bell, ‘ “The Pestilence that Walketh in Darkness”: Imperial Health, Gender and Images of South Africa c.1880-1910,’ Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 18 (1993), pp.327-341 [e-journal]

Anna Crozier, ‘Sensationalising Africa: British Medical Impressions of Sub-Saharan Africa, 1890-1939,’Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 35 (2007), pp.393-415. [e-journal]

Philip D. Curtin, The Image of Africa: British Ideas and Action, 1780-1850, Vol I (Madison, 1964), ‘Ch.7: The Problem of Survival,’pp.177-197

_____________, ‘The White Man’s Grave: Image and Reality, 1750-1850’, Journal of British Studies, 1 (1961), 94-110.

_____________, Disease and Empire: The Health of European Troops in the Conquest of Africa (Cambridge, 1998), ‘Ch. 4: Tropical Conquest in West Africa,’ pp.74-112.

Anne Digby, Diversity and Division in Medicine: Health Care in South Africa from the 1800s (New York, 2006)

Saul Dubow, A Commonwealth of Knowledge: Science, Sensibility and White South Africa, 1820–2000 (Oxford, 2006)

Steven Feierman and John M. Janzen (eds.) The Social Basis of Health and Healing in Africa (Berkeley, 1992)

Karen Flint, Healing Traditions: African Medicine, Cultural Exchange, and Competition in South Africa, 1820-1948 (Athens, 2008)

Charles Good, The Steamer Parish: The Rise and Fall of Missionary Medicine on an African Frontier (Chicago, 2004)

David Gordon, 'A Sword of Empire? Medicine and Colonialism at King William's Town, Xhosaland, 1856-91,' in Bridie Andrews and Marie P. Sutphen (eds.), Medicine and Colonial Identity (New York, 2003), pp. 41-60

Maryinez Lyons, ‘Sleeping Sickness Epidemics and Public Health in the Belgian Congo,’ in David Arnold (ed.) Imperial Medicine and Indigenous Societies (Manchester, 1988), pp. 105-124

E.E. Sabben-Clare, D.J. Bradley, and K. Kirkwood, (eds.), Health in Tropical Africa During the Colonial Period (Oxford, 1980)

Megan Vaughan, Curing their Ills: Colonial Power and African Illness (New York, 1991)

_____________, ‘Healing and Curing: Issues in the Social History and Anthropology of Medicine in Africa’, Social History of Medicine, 7 (1994), pp. 283-295. [e-journal]