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Medicine and Empire

In the past several decades historians of medicine have increasingly acknowledged the seminal importance of global empires in the development of modern medicine and the formative role colonial medicine played in the management of imperial subjects. This session examines the relationship between medicine and empire through a series of readings on the experience of disease in colonial India.

Seminar Questions

  1. To what extent was medicine part of the ‘ideology of empire’?
  2. What role did disease prevention play in consolidating colonial rule in India?
  3. To what degree was it possible for the Indian population to ‘resist’ the imposition of Western medicine?

Core Readings

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

Rohan Deb Roy, 'Quinine, Mosquitoes and Empire: Reassembling Malaria in British India, 1890–1910', South Asian History 4.1 (2013), pp. 65-86. Link.

Waltraud Ernst, ‘Beyond East and West: From the History of Colonial Medicine to a Social History of Medicine(s) in South Asia’, Social History of Medicine 20.3 (2007), pp. 505-524. Link.

Mark Harrison, ‘Towards a Sanitary Utopia? Professional Visions and Public Health in India, 1880-1914’, South Asia Research 10.1 (1990), pp. 19-41. Link.

Further Reading

Bhattacharya, Nandini, Contagion and Enclaves: Tropical Medicine in Colonial India (Liverpool, 2012).

Chakrabarti, Pratik, Bacteriology in British India: Laboratory Medicine and the Tropics (Rochester, 2012).

Chakrabarti, Pratik, Medicine and Empire, 1600-1960 (Basingstoke, 2014).

Deb Roy, Rohan, Malarial Subjects: Empire, Medicine and Nonhumans in British India, 1820-1909 (Cambridge, 2017).

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

Haynes, Douglas M., Imperial Medicine: Patrick Manson and the Conquest of Tropical Disease (Philadelphia, 2001).

MacLeod, R., and M. Lewis (eds.), Disease, Medicine, and Empire: Perspectives on Western India and the Experience of European Expansion (London, 1988).

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

Pati, Bisamoy, and Mark Harrison (eds.), Health, Medicine and Empire, Perspectives on Colonial India (London, 2016).

Sehrawat, Samiksha, Colonial Medical Care in North India: Gender, State, and Society, c.1840-1920 (Dehli, 2013).

Seth, Suman, Difference and Disease: Medicine, Race, and the Eighteenth-Century British Empire (Cambridge, 2018).