Colonial Responses to Public Health
Mohan Rao
HEALTH CARE IN BOMBAY PRESIDENCY 1896-1930 by Mridula Ramanna Primus Books, 2013, 102 pp., 795
February 2013, volume 37, No 2-3

I had the privilege of reviewing Mridula Ramanna’s earlier volume, Western Medicine and Public Health in Colonial Bombay, 1845-1895 in The Book Review (Vol XXVII, No.8, August) in 2003. Subsequently, I chaired the lecture she delivered at the Jamia Milia Islamia, the prestigious XXV M.A. Ansari Memorial Lecture, delivered in March 2007. The excellent lecture was titled ‘State Intervention and Indian Responses: Plague Epidemics in Bombay Presidency’ which, I suspect, forms the first chapter in this volume. The author and I know each other, and I admire her work. This is thus not an ‘objective outsider’s’ review—as if that ever exists.

Writing the history of health or medicine in India is, for obvious reasons, monopolized by western scholars. Not only are the archives located in either the UK or USA, scholars from these countries seem to have endless access to the field that is India. For an Indian scholar or indeed a PhD student, the situation is terminally bleak. Imperialism exists and thrives in academia and it is indeed a structural factor.

Continue reading this review