Leprosy in Colonial South India: Medicine and Confinement

By Jane. Buckingham | Go to book overview

6
The Politics of Leprosy Control

Introduction

From the early 1870s, both leprosy treatment and scientific investigation of the disease did not remain entirely altruistic but were driven increasingly by political concerns. During the 1860s the investigation of leprosy was used by the Royal College of Physicians to bolster its emerging professional status. However, the testing of Beauperthuy's cashew nut oil treatment in the early 1870s made clear the limits of the Royal College of Physicians' authority. With the subsequent development of the gurjon oil treatment by Dougall in India, the Government of India and the sanitary department took the lead, displacing the British government and Royal College of Physicians as directors of leprosy investigation in India. The attention paid by both the British and Indian governments to each cure marked a considerable departure from the situation in the early nineteenth century when treatment initiatives such as Dalton's came only to the attention of the presidency government. Beauperthuy and Dougall's treatments, each of which was hoped to be a specific cure for leprosy, were trialled in the Madras presidency as part of a wider colonial program of treatment trials, indicating not only the degree of British and Indian government interest but also the extent to which intervention in and regulation of leprosy investigation had developed. Increased government regulation of leprosy treatment did not, however, spell the end of local treatment control. Medical officers in Madras exercised discretion in implementing government trials, and indigenous remedies remained an important element in local British medical care for leprosy sufferers.

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