Frontiers of Medicine in the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, 1899-1940

Frontiers of Medicine in the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, 1899-1940

Frontiers of Medicine in the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, 1899-1940

Frontiers of Medicine in the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, 1899-1940

Synopsis

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.

Excerpt

This chapter provides an overview of the medical administration in the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan between 1899 and 1940, arguing that the distinctive form of colonialism developed in Sudan, and outlined in Chapter 1, shaped the medical services provided. the chapter begins by charting the shifting goals of the medical department/service, showing how they paralleled the changing ambitions of the colonial state, and goes on to highlight the colonial financial and human resource limitations that constrained medical activity. the second half of the chapter discusses the different categories of personnel who practised Western medicine on behalf of the colonial state. Analysis of biographical information about British military and civilian doctors and their terms of service suggests that both groups were middle class, well educated, and enjoyed financial and social standing comparable to their political counterparts. a discussion of Syrian and Sudanese medical personnel demonstrates clearly the way in which political and economic policies influenced who delivered which medical services in different parts of the country at particular points in time. It also shows that British doctors' perception of racial difference, and their class, gender, and occupation hierarchies structured the training of Sudanese medical personnel and the medical service, counterbalancing the fluidity of the boundary drawn around the profession of medicine in Sudan.

Medical administration

The development of the Sudan medical department, renamed the Sudan medical service in 1924, mirrored the development of political administration and broadly reflected the government's political priorities. Military staffing and military leadership of civil medicine in Sudan remained a fact of life until the First World War, and military control over civilian medical care persisted into the 1920s in some provinces. As in the political realm, senior doctors were British men, seconded from the Royal Army Medical Corps to the Egyptian Army Medical Corps (EAMC), while junior doctors were mainly Syrian, but also Egyptian, men hired directly . . .

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