Bacteriology in British India: Laboratory Medicine and the Tropics

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During the nineteenth century, European scinetists and physicians considered the tropics the natural home of pathogens. Hot and miasmic, the tropical world was the locus of diesase, for Euopeans the great enemy of civilization. In the late nineteenth century when bacterilological laboratories and institutions were introduced to British Indaia, they were therefore as much an imperial mission to cleanse and civilize a tropical colony as a medical one to eradicate disease. Bacteriology offered a panacea in colonial India, a way by which the multifarious political, social, environmntal, and medical problems and anxieties, intrinsically linkied to its diseases, could have a single reslolution. Bacteriology in British India is th first book to provide a social and cultural history of bacteriology in colonial India, situating it within the confluence of advances in germ theory, Pastuerian vaccines, colonial medicine, laboratoroy science, and British imperialism. It recounts the genesis of bacteriology and laboratory medicine in India through a complex history of conflict and alignment between Pasteurism and British imperial medicine. By investigating an array of laboratory notes, medical literature, and literary sources, the volume links colonial medical research with issues of poverty, race, natioanlism, and imperial attitudes toward tropical climate and wildlife, contributing to a wide field of scholarship like the history of science and medicine, sociology ofscience, and cultural history. Pratik Chakrabarti is senior lecturer in history at the University of Kent, UK.