European and non-European medical practices: India and the West Indies, 1750-1900.

CURRIE, Simon. (2005). European and non-European medical practices: India and the West Indies, 1750-1900. Doctoral, Sheffield Hallam University (United Kingdom)..

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Abstract

This thesis compares the interaction between British doctors and Indian medical practitioners with that between such doctors and African-Caribbean practitioners during the period 1750 to 1900. This in-depth analysis is contextualized within a longer time-scale and against a broader global background.Comparison is made firstly in terms of racial and cultural attitudes and how these affected interaction. Some British doctors in India disparaged indigenous practices. In the West Indies, denigration of the African was paralleled with a lack of interest in slave medical practices. Western medicine was dominant as part of the British administration in India, by coercion at plantation level in the Caribbean. These contrasts are highlighted in this thesis.While "rational empiricism" began to replace the humoral dogmatism of Western medicine from the 1770s, the Indian systems and slave medicine were both seen as consisting of "mere" empiricism, lacking in science or theory. Nevertheless, this thesis challenges David Arnold's view that by the nineteenth century British doctors were dismissive of Indian systems and practitioners. Conversely, Richard Sheridan's assertion that British doctors adapted their practice through learning from African-Caribbean medicine is strongly opposed in the thesis. Arnold overstates the rejection, Sheridan the acceptance. British doctor-botanists identified the plants in indigenous Indian medicines. They could also find succedaneums directly, bypassing indigenous lore. They advised other doctors on botanical issues. Their major role in interaction in India has not been looked at previously. Sheridan's labelling those in the West Indies as "doctor-scientists" overrates their status while Arnold's calling those in India "gentlemanly" underrates it (the second has already been challenged in the literature).Nineteenth century texts of materia medica were plant-based, including many Indian drugs; they were made obsolete in the 1870s by the advent of chemical pharmacology. This fault-line between botany and chemistry halted systematic examination of recently elucidated plant-based remedies for a hundred years from 1860. The thesis suggests that it was more important in reducing medical interaction than were broader factors such as concepts of dominance and racial superiority as put forward by Arnold.New World drugs which had long been part of the Western materia medica, such as quina-bark and ipecacuanha, held their own and were developed chemically. Early botanists on the Indian subcontinent produced work which also lasted. In Spanish colonies, cultural syncretism between Spaniards and Amerindians included medicine; in this thesis it is contrasted with the absence of any comparable syncretism allowed by the British in India or the Caribbean between the ruling class (administrators or plantocracy) and the non-white populations.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Additional Information: Thesis (Ph.D.)--Sheffield Hallam University (United Kingdom), 2005.
Research Institute, Centre or Group: Sheffield Hallam Doctoral Theses
Depositing User: EPrints Services
Date Deposited: 10 Apr 2018 17:23
Last Modified: 10 Apr 2018 17:23
URI: http://shura.shu.ac.uk/id/eprint/20652

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