From Western Medicine to Global Medicine: The Hospital beyond the West

By Connerton, Winifred C. | Nursing History Review, January 1, 2013 | Go to article overview

From Western Medicine to Global Medicine: The Hospital beyond the West


Connerton, Winifred C., Nursing History Review


From Western Medicine to Global Medicine: The Hospital Beyond the West Edited by Mark Harrison, Margaret Jones, and Helen Sweet (Hyderabad, India: Orient Blackswan, 2009) (489 pages, $23.00 cloth)

In his introduction to From Western Medicine to Global Medicine: The Hospital Beyond the West, editor Mark Harrison attributes the spread of Western medicine around the world to the development of the hospital and notes that "the history of the hospital beyond the West offers great potential to illuminate the transformation of Western medicine into the global medical system that it has become" (p. 32). What follows are 14 chapters that detail hospitals' (and one institute's) development during 19th and 20th centuries across Asia and Africa. The chapters selected from papers given at a conference of the same title at the Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine, University of Oxford, March 18-19, 2004, all highlight the way local factors, particularly factors of race, religion, and local politics, influenced the introduction and practice of Western medicine in non-Western settings.

The strength of this collection is the focus on non-Western hospitals and the scholarship of non-Western authors. Many works on colonial and non-Western health care are limited because the author does not have the language facility to use native language sources. In this collection, however, the diversity of original language sources is quite rich and details the complex negotiations that accompanied hospital development. Of particular note is Hormoz Ebrahimnejad's chapter on the development of hospitals in Iran and Philippe Bourmaud's chapter on the political wrangling around medical practice in the Ottoman Empire. Similarly, Shahaduz Zaman's chapter would not have been possible without native language skills and his ethnography of patients on an orthopedic ward in Nepal gives voice to people usually obscured in the written record.

Harrison situates European hospital development within their imperial periods, particularly noting that hospitals outside the metropole were essential to maintaining a healthy colonial workforce and military. Several authors addressed territories under British colonial rule including Margaret Jones' work on hospitals in the 19th century Ceylon, and Seán Lang's chronicle of women's health services in Madras. Other colonial powers are included as well, with the French represented in Guillaume Lachenal's work on the Pasteur Institute of Cameroon and the Japanese in Robert John Perrins' description of Japanese and missionary hospitals in 19th century Manchuria. In his chapter on mission hospitals in Tanzania, Walter Bruchhausen notes that for missions, unlike the government, the hospital was the central focus of their medical work because they did not have the resources for larger scale projects. …

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