1st Edition

Modern Maternities Medical Advice about Breastfeeding in Colonial Calcutta

By Ranjana Saha Copyright 2024
    290 Pages 28 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge India

    290 Pages 28 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge India

    Modern Maternities: Medical Advice about Breastfeeding in Colonial Calcutta brings to light rare textual and visual materials on medical opinions about breastfeeding by memsahibs (European women), dais (indigenous midwives and/or wet nurses) and the bhadramahila (here the focus is on ‘respectable’ Bengali-Hindu women). With the help of archival resources, the author discusses themes like:

    • modernity, maternities and medicine
    • intersections of ‘race’, gender, class, caste, community and age in diet
    • artificial foods versus wet nursing
    • ‘cleanliness’, corporeality and culture
    • ‘clean midwifery’ versus ‘dirty midwifery’
    • customary breastfeeding practices
    • child-mothers and childcare
    • breastfeeding, mothercraft and modern clocks
    • exhibitions, baby shows and baby weeks
    • colonialism and anti-colonial nation-building

    The book offers critical insights into social histories of medicine, motherhood and childcare in nineteenth and early twentieth century colonial Calcutta. It is intended for anyone interested in the book’s interdisciplinary focus on the regional, national and global resonances of childrearing advice. In particular, it will interest scholars and researchers from modern Indian history, global history, health history, medical anthropology, gender studies and South Asian studies.

    List of Tables

    List of Figures




    1 Tropicana Milk

    2 Dais, Midwifery and Wet Nursing

    3 ‘Indian Mothers’ and Modern Childcare

    4 Child-Mothers and Mother India

    5 The Child Welfare Exhibition, 1920





    Ranjana Saha is a postdoctoral teaching fellow (History Faculty) at the Manipal Centre for Humanities (MCH), Manipal Academy of Higher Education, Manipal. Prior to joining MCH, she was a two-year postdoctoral research fellow at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), Mohali. She completed her PhD from the Department of History, University of Delhi, Delhi. Her research has been published in national and international journals such as The Indian Economic and Social History Review, Women’s Studies International Forum and South Asia Research.