Coronavirus (Covid-19): Latest updates and information
Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Week 12: Colonial Medicine in South Asia

European medicine made inroads into the Indian subcontinent in the late seventeenth century, and grew in prominence as the British dominated the region until the mid-twentieth century. In this session we’ll examine the importation of European medical knowledge, institutions and practices into India, and will consider how epidemic diseases endemic to South Asia shaped relations between the colonisers and colonized, becoming a contested area around which medicine was wielded both as a means of ‘control’ and ‘resistance.’


Discussion Questions:

-What role did disease play in shaping conceptions of India?

-How was sanitation as a public health measure used as a means of colonial control in India?

-How dominant was ‘Western medicine’ in India during the colonial period?


Background Reading:

Pratik Chakrabarti, Medicine and Empire, 1600-1960 (Basingstoke, 2014), ‘Ch.6: Western Medicine in Colonial India,’ pp.101-121.

Required Readings:

**David Arnold, Colonizing the Body: State Medicine and Epidemic Disease in Nineteenth-Century India (1993), 'Ch. 5: Plague: Assault on the Body,' pp.200-239 [e-book]

*Mark Harrison, ‘Medicine and Colonialism in South Asia since 1500’, in Mark Jackson (ed.), Oxford Handbook of the History of Medicine (Oxford, 2011), pp.285-301 [e-book]

*Saurabh Mishra, 'Incarceration and Resistance in a Red Sea Lazaretto, 1880-1930' in Alison Bashford (ed.) Quarantine: Local and Global Histories (Basingstoke, 2016). [extracts]

**Sheldon Watts, ‘From Rapid Change to Stasis: Official Responses to Cholera in British-Ruled India and Egypt: 1860 to c.1921’, Journal of World History, 12 (2001), 321-74. [e-journal]

Further Readings:

David Arnold, ‘Medical Priorities and Practice in Nineteenth-Century British India’, South Asia Research, 5 (1985), 167-83. [e-journal]

____________, ‘Cholera and Colonialism in British India’, Past and Present, 113 (1986), 118-51. [e-journal]

____________, ‘The Indian Ocean as a Disease Zone, 1500-1950’, South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies, 14 (1991), 1-22. [e-journal]

____________, Science, Medicine and Technology in Colonial India (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000). [e-book]

Alan Bewell, Romanticism and Colonial Disease (Baltimore, 1999), ‘Ch.7: Cholera, Sanitation and Colonial Representations of India,’ pp. 242-276 [e-book]

Niels Brimnes, ‘Variolation, Vaccination and Popular Resistance in Early Colonial South India,’ Medical History 48 (2004), 199-228. [e-journal]

Pratik Chakrabarti, ‘“Neither of meate nor drinke, but what the Doctor alloweth”: Medicine amidst War and Commerce in Eighteenth-Century Madras’, Bulletin of the History of Medicine, 80 (2006), 1-38 [e-journal]

Sanchari Dutta, ‘Plague, Quarantine and Empire: British-Indian Sanitary Strategies in Central Asia, 1897-1907’, in Pati and Harrison (eds.), The Social History of Health and Medicine in Colonial India (London, 2009), pp. 93-112.

Mark Harrison, ‘Towards a Sanitary Utopia? Professional Visions and Public Health in India, 1880-1914’, South Asia Research, 10 (1990),19-41 [e-journal]

____________, Public Health in British India: Anglo-Indian Preventive Medicine 1859-1914 (Cambridge, 1994)

____________, Climates and Constitutions: Health, Race, Environment and British Imperialism in India, 1600-1850 (Oxford, 1999)

J.C. Hume, ‘Colonialism and Sanitary Medicine: The Development of Preventive Health Policy in the Punjab, 1860-1900’, Modern Asian Studies, 20 (1986), 703-24. [e-journal]

Anil Kumar, Medicine and the Raj: British Medical Policy 1835-1911 (New Delhi, 1998)

Radhika Ramasubban, ‘Imperial Health in British India, 1857-1900’, in R. MacLeod and M. Lewis (eds.), Disease, Medicine, and Empire: Perspectives on Western India and the Experience of European Expansion (London, 1988), 38-60.

Biswamoy Pati and Mark Harrison (eds.), Health, Medicine and Empire: Perspectives on Colonial India (Hyderabad, 2001).

Biswamoy Pati and Mark Harrison (eds.), The Social History of Health and Medicine in Colonial India (London, 2009)