Race, Science, and Medicine, 1700-1960

Race, Science, and Medicine, 1700-1960

Race, Science, and Medicine, 1700-1960

Race, Science, and Medicine, 1700-1960


Considering cases from Europe to India, this collection brings together current critical research into the role played by racial issues in the production of medical knowledge. Confronting such controversial themes as colonialism and medicine, the origins of racial thinking and health and migration, the distinguished contributors examine the role played by medicine in the construction of racial categories.


‘An ancient race outworn’

Malaria and race in colonial India, 1860-1930

David Arnold

Much recent discussion of race has been concerned with racial theories advanced in Europe and North America from the mid-eighteenth century onwards and with what appear from the perspective of the West to be the defining moments in the history of race—Atlantic slavery and Nazi genocide against the Jews. With the exception of South Africa, relatively little consideration has been given, by contrast, to how ideas of race were evolved and enacted in various extra-European locations. Scholarship has thus tended to reinforce the notion of race as a relatively homogeneous set of ideas and practices, driven by material greed and social anxieties in the West, and capable of delivering social power and political authority to whites across the globe. Race was, however, a far more nebulous and often self-contradictory concept, and rather than being the voice of white authority alone, could form part of an interactive process by which ideas of race were internalised and reworked by the subjects of European racial discourse and practice, in search of their own empowerment.

This chapter seeks to capture the diverse uses of the concept of race in British India in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and to locate race alongside debates about science, disease and environment. It focuses on one disease (malaria) and one locality (Bengal) in order to provide a specific set of geographical, cultural and historical parameters for a discussion of race, science and colonialism.

Slaying the dragon

It would be difficult to embark on a discussion of malaria, race and British India without referring to Ronald Ross. in the words of one

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