The Poison Panics of British India

  • David ArnoldEmail author
Part of the Cambridge Imperial and Post-Colonial Studies Series book series (CIPCSS)


Fear of poisoning was a common cause of alarm in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century India, affecting Europeans and Indians alike. Centred mainly on items of food and drink, these periodically erupted into major panic episodes. Poison panics played on three main anxieties: a fear among Europeans of being poisoned by their domestic servants or by the rulers of Indian princely states, the identification of India as having a toxic physical environment or being home to practices like Thugi or cattle-killing that might entail secret poisoning, and a more generalized concern about bazaar medicines and the use of potentially lethal drugs in indigenous pharmacology. The cumulative effect of these scares was the passing of the Indian Poisons Act of 1904.


Moral Panic Colonial Rule Colonial Regime Colonial State Indian Medicine 
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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of HistoryUniversity of WarwickCoventryUK

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