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Medicine and Colonialism in India

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Ancient India

The Indian subcontinent was well inhabited by the first millennium BCE. The inhabited territory extended west into areas that today are in Pakistan and Afghanistan. These ancient Indians had a well‐developed system of medicine termed Āyurveda (The Science of Life). Ayurvedic physicians practiced medicine and to a lesser extent, surgery. The system and its practitioners were held in high regard and Indian physicians are known to have been in the courts of the Muslim rulers. Some of the Ayurvedic texts were translated into Arabic early in the history of Islam.

The basic thrust of Colonialism is to exploit the colonized for the benefit of the colonizers. Usually after a long period of colonization the two groups come to a situation of better parity. Both these phenomena are well illustrated in the colonization of India.

Muslim Invasion

From the early eighth century, India was invaded by the Muslim kings ruling in the west across the Himalayas. Initially these Muslim pockets...

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Notes

  1. 1.

    The training and career of a naval surgeon of the times are well detailed in The Adventures of Roderick Random (1748) by Tobias Smollett (1721–1778) who was himself a physician trained at the University of Aberdeen.

  2. 2.

    The Carnatic and Mysore Wars were fought in the latter half of the eighteenth century by the British against the Marathas, rulers of Mysore, and the French to establish British power in southern India.

References

A number of publications in Bengali have significant information on this subject. They have not been mentioned here.

  • Anon. Centenary of the Calcutta Medical College. Calcutta: Calcutta Medical College, 1935.

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  • Arnold, David. Science, Technology and Medicine in Colonial India. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

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  • Bala, Poonam. Imperialism and Medicine in Bengal: A Socio‐Historical Perspective. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications, 1991.

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  • Balfour, Margaret and Ruth Young. The Work of Medical Women in India. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1929.

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  • Chakravorty, Ranès C. Doctors, Nurses and Medical Practitioners. A Biobibliographical Sourcebook. Ed. Lois N. Magner. Westport: Greenwood Press, 1997. 150–5.

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  • Lal, Maneesha. The Politics of Gender and Medicine in Colonial India: The Countess of Dufferin's Fund, 1885–1888. Bulletin of the History of Medicine 68.1 (Mar. 1994): 29–66.

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  • Majumdar, R. C., A. D. Pusalker, and A. K. Majumdar, ed. The History and Culture of Indian People. Struggle for Empire. Vol. V. Bombay: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, 1979.

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  • Majumdar, R. C., J. N. Chaudhuri, and S. Chaudhuri, ed. The History and Culture of Indian People. The Mughul Empire. Vol. VII. 3rd ed. Bombay: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, 1994.

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  • Pandya, S. K. Medicine in Goa – A Former Portuguese Territory. Journal of Postgraduate Medicine 28 (1982): 123–48.

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  • Wilson, C. R. The Early Annals of the English in Bengal. Surman Embassy. Vol. II. Part II. Calcutta: The Asiatic Society, 1911. xl–xlv (Chapter VI).

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Chakravorty, R.C. (2008). Medicine and Colonialism in India. In: Selin, H. (eds) Encyclopaedia of the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine in Non-Western Cultures. Springer, Dordrecht. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4020-4425-0_9760

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