Contraception, Colonialism and Commerce: Birth Control in South India, 1920–1940, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Contraception, Colonialism and Commerce

Birth Control in South India, 1920–1940, 1st Edition

By Sarah Hodges


182 pages

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Birth control holds an unusual place in the history of medicine. Largely devoid of doctors or hospitals, only relatively recently have birth control histories included tales of laboratory-based therapeutic innovation. Instead, these histories elucidate the peculiar slippages between individual bodies and a body politic occasioned by the promotion of techniques to manipulate human reproduction. The history of birth control in India brings these as well as additional complications to the field. Contrary to popular belief, India has one of the most long-lasting, institutionalized, far-reaching, state sponsored family planning programs in the world. During the inter-war period the country witnessed the formation of groups dedicated to promoting the cause of birth control. This book outlines the early history of birth control in India, particularly the Tamil south. In so doing, it illuminates India's role in a global network of birth control advocacy. The book also argues how Indians' contraceptive advocacy and associationalism became an increasingly significant realm of action in which they staked claims not just about the utility of contraception but simultaneously over their ability and right to self-rule.


’This is a handsomely produced volume which advances our knowledge and understanding of an important area not just of colonial biopolitics, but of the interplay between birth and politics itself.’ Medical History ’… an engaging and provocative read.’ American Historical Review

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction: late colonial biopolitics; Anxiety without action: contraception and the late colonial state; The Madras Neo-Malthusian League and global networks of contraceptive evangelism; An apocalyptic body politics of modernity: contraception and the self respect movement; Contraceptive commercialism; Epilogue: the state of the population: history and fertility in 20th-century Tamil Nadu; Bibliography; Index.

About the Author

Sarah Hodges is Associate Professor in the Department of History at the University of Warwick, UK. She has also edited Reproductive Health in India: History, Politics, Controversies (2006).

About the Series

The History of Medicine in Context

An interest in medicine is one of the constants that re-occurs throughout history. From the earliest times, man has sought ways to combat the myriad of diseases and ailments that afflict the human body, resulting in a number of evolving and often competing philosophies and practices whose repercussions spread far beyond the strictly medical sphere.

For more than a decade The History of Medicine in Context series has provided a unique platform for the publication of research pertaining to the study of medicine from broad social, cultural, political, religious and intellectual perspectives. Offering cutting-edge scholarship on a range of medical subjects that cross chronological, geographical and disciplinary boundaries, the series consistently challenges received views about medical history and shows how medicine has had a much more pronounced effect on western society than is often acknowledged. As medical knowledge progresses, throwing up new challenges and moral dilemmas, The History of Medicine in Context series offers the opportunity to evaluate the shifting role and practice of medicine from the long perspective, not only providing a better understanding of the past, but often an intriguing perspective on the present.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / General