Public Health in the British Empire : Intermediaries, Subordinates, and the Practice of Public Health, 1850-1960 book cover
1st Edition

Public Health in the British Empire
Intermediaries, Subordinates, and the Practice of Public Health, 1850-1960

ISBN 9780415890410
Published November 18, 2011 by Routledge
222 Pages

FREE Standard Shipping
USD $160.00

Prices & shipping based on shipping country


Book Description

Over the last several decades, historians of public health in Britain’s colonies have been primarily concerned with the process of policy making in the upper echelons of the medical and sanitary administrations. Yet it was the lower level staff that formed the backbone of public health systems in the colonies. Although they constituted the bases of many colonies’ public health machinery, there is no consolidated study of these individuals to date. Public Health in the British Empire addresses this gap by bringing together historians studying intermediary and subordinate staff across the British Empire.

Along with investigating the duties and responsibilities of medical and non-medical intermediary and subordinate personnel, the contributors to this volume show how the subjectivity of these agents influenced the manner in which they discharged their duties and how this in turn shaped policy. Even those working as low level assistants and aids were able to affect policy design. In this way, Public Health in the British Empire brings into sharp relief the disaggregated nature of the empire, thereby challenging the understanding of the imperial project as an enterprise conceived of and driven from the center.

Table of Contents

Introduction. Amna Khalid and Ryan Johnson  1. The Control of Birth: Pupil Midwives in Nineteenth Century Madras. Seán Lang  2. "Unscientific and Insanitary": Hereditary Sweepers and Customary Rights in the United Provinces. Amna Khalid  3. "Left in the Hands of Subordinates": Medicine, Language, and Power in the Colonial Medical Institutions of Egypt and India. James Mills  4. Surviving the Colonial Institution: Workers and Patients in the Government Hospitals of Mid Nineteenth Century Jamaica. Margaret Jones  5. "A Laudable Experiment": Infant Welfare Work and Medical Intermediaries in Early Twentieth Century Barbados. Juanita De Barros  6. Burmese Health Officers in the Transformation of Public Health in Colonial Burma in the 1920s and 1930s. Atsuko Naono  7. Mantsemei, Interpreters, and the Successful Eradication of Plague: The 1908 Plague Epidemic in Colonial Accra. Ryan Johnson  8. Medical Training, African Auxiliaries, and Social Healing in Colonial. Mwinilunga, Northern Rhodesia (Zambia), 1945-1964. Walima T. Kalusa  9. The Mid-Level Health Worker in South Africa: The In-Between Condition of the "Middle". Anne Digby

View More



Amna Khalid is Assistant Professor in South Asian History at Carleton College. Her research interests lie at the intersection of South Asian history, the history of medicine and British colonial history in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. She is also interested in the study of sacred spaces as foci of epidemics as well as sites of worship, healing and 'queer' sexuality. She is currently developing a project on Sufi shrines in Cape Town.

Ryan Johnson completed his D.Phil at the University of Oxford on British imperial tropical medicine. Currently he is Lecturer in History at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, where he is embarking on a study of public health in British West Africa, with a particular focus on intermediate and subordinate personnel.


‘This volume breaks new ground. The role of medical intermediaries and subordinates has not received due attention in existing studies. The book constitutes an important contribution to a more balanced and comprehensive approach to the history of colonial medicine.’Waltraud Ernst, Oxford Brookes University, UK

‘A landmark series of case studies describing the role of subordinates and intermediaries in the public health policy of British Empire. This book is essential reading for all those interested in the history of colonial medicine.’Anna Crozier, University of Exeter, UK