Disease, medicine, and colonialism in South Asia

Professor Mark Harrison (Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine)

The history of health and medicine in what is now referred to as South Asia is a burgeoning field.  Much of this literature has concentrated on the place of medicine in relations between Europeans and Indians before and during periods of formal colonial rule.  Historians who have worked on these subjects have used medicine, health and disease as windows through which to view social and political trends and that is the approach taken in this course.
The course begins by examining the interaction of medical ideas and practices that followed the establishment of Portuguese colonies in India at the beginning of the sixteenth century.  Having surveyed various aspects of the medical encounters between Indians and Europeans during the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the course explores the role of Western medicine under British rule during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.  Themes include the growth of Western medical education and hospitals, reform of indigenous medical traditions, public health and epidemic diseases, and the relationship between medical theory and political ideas.