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Macmillan Higher Education Palgrave Higher Education

Medicine and Empire


ISBN 9780230276352
Publication Date December 2013
Formats Hardcover Ebook Paperback 
Publisher Palgrave

The history of modern medicine is inseparable from the history of imperialism. Medicine and Empire provides an introduction to this shared history – spanning three centuries and covering British, French and Spanish imperial histories in Africa, Asia and America.

Exploring the major developments in European medicine from the seventeenth century to the mid-twentieth century, Pratik Chakrabarti shows that the major developments in European medicine had a colonial counterpart and were closely intertwined with European activities overseas:

• the increasing influence of natural history on medicine
• the growth of European drug markets
• the rise of surgeons in status
• ideas of race and racism
• advancements in sanitation and public health
• the expansion of the modern quarantine system
• the emergence of Germ theory and global vaccination campaigns.

Drawing on recent scholarship and primary texts, this book narrates a mutually constitutive history in which medicine was both a 'tool' and a product of imperialism, and provides an original, accessible insight into the deep historical roots of the problems that plague global health today.

Pratik Chakrabarti is Reader in History at the University of Kent, UK. He is the author of Western Science in Modern India: Metropolitan Methods, Colonial Practices (2004), Material and Medicine: Trade, Conquest and Therapeutics in the Eighteenth Century (2010) and Bacteriology in British India: Laboratory Medicine and the Tropics (2012). He is also one of the editors of the journal Social History of Medicine.

1. Medicine in the Age of Commerce: 1600-1800
2. Plants, Medicine and Empire
3. Medicine and the Colonial Armed Forces
4. Colonialism, Climate and Race
5. Imperialism and the Globalization of Disease
6. Western Medicine in Colonial India
7. Medicine and the Colonization of Africa
8. Imperialism and Tropical Medicine
9. Bacteriology and the Civilizing Mission
10. Colonialism and Traditional Medicines
Conclusion: The Colonial Legacies of Global Health.


This is an extremely valuable work … it fulfils but also exceeds the requirements of a textbook, for it offers an interpretative synthesis which is of value in its own right.' – Mark Harrison, Professor of the History of Medicine and Director of the Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine, Oxford University, UK
'The book provides a narrative history in relation to empire and situates that narrative within a wider understanding of the economic, political and military functions of empire; it introduces readers to the rich and varied historiography surrounding this topic; and provides a long background to the problems of contemporary medicine and international health.' – David Arnold, Emeritus Professor of History, University of Warwick, UK
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