By Heather Bell
Much recent work on the history of colonial medicine argues that medicine was the handmaiden of colonial power and of capitalism. Dr Bell challenges this interpretation through careful investigation of the complicated relationship between medicine, politics, and capital in the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan. Subverting the accepted wisdom that colonial medicine consisted primarily of white male doctors treating black patients, Dr Bell highlights the important role of women and of African and non-European practitioners of Western medicine. She moves beyond the realm of medical practice to consider the relationship between medical research and colonial power. And she argues that a new international medicine emerged during the interwar period, modifying and even supplanting existing colonial relationships. Frontiers of Medicine examines the physical, epidemiological, and professional boundaries that endlessly preoccupies colonial officials. Emphasising the tenuousness of colonial power, it includes chapters on midwifery training and female circumcision, on health and racial ideology, and on the quest to find the yellow fever virus in East Africa. Accepted wisdom maintains that colonial medicine consisted primarily of white doctors treating black patients, that it was mainly about medical practice, and that it was driven by colonial relationships. Dr Bell subverts these notions with detailed evidence of the participation of women and native Africans as trained medical personnel in the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, and demonstrates the tenuousness of colonial power in practice. There are chapters on midwifery training and female circumcision, on health and racial ideology, and on the quest to find yellow fever virus in East Africa. Dr Bell also investigates the relationship between colonial power and medical research, arguing that a new international medicine emerged during the inter-war period.