University of Dundee, Dundee, Scotland, DD1 4HN, UK

27-28 May 2015, Dundee Contemporary Arts (DCA) Meeting Room

At the turn of the nineteenth century, European colonies in Asia were awash with medicines, tinctures, tonics, narcotics and therapeutic substances of every kind, exported from Great Britain, Germany, USA and Japan.

There was moreover a brisk trade within of drugs, alcohol-based or otherwise, and narcotics of every kind within the region, including a vast number of indigenous drugs. Purveyors of Indigenous and western therapies and substances marketed their drugs, medicated wines and brandies, and patent medicines of every description to the growing numbers of the urban indigenous consuming public.

This market was not just a medical market, but one of alcohol, opiates, narcotics, as well as of curative substances. Recently, the historiography of colonial India has engaged with the re-invention of indigenous drugs, the control of opiates the social history of advertising and the trajectories of government control over alcohol and opiates.

This conference will bring together historians of South Asia who have worked on substances and their social trajectories.

Themes include histories of individual drugs and opiates, their social uses and discontents, their political impact on manufacture and within the nationalist movement, government control and taxation, adulteration in food and drugs, consumption patterns of addictive and non-addictive substances as well as temperance movements.



This conference will contribute to the global history and history of medicine components of the School of Humanities in the University of Dundee. It will bring some of the most prominent historians of medicine from UK, USA, Canada, Switzerland and India to reflect on medical therapies, intoxicating substances that were distributed, manufactured, marketed and consumed in many different forms in nineteenth and twentieth century Asia. It will attempt to generate a consensus on the question of monitoring the markets for both addictive and poisonous medical therapies and the extent to which they were controlled by the relevant state legislation.

The papers submitted at the conference will be published in a special issue of a journal in history/history of medicine.

A one-hour slot at the close of the conference will be allocated to finalise publication plans as the outcome of the conference.

Conference Organisers

Dr Nandini Bhattacharya, University of Dundee
Professor James Livesey, University of Dundee

Speakers and Delegates

Speakers and Delegates

  • Professor David Arnold, (University of Warwick, UK) Arsenic: Merchandise and Medicament in British India, 1830-1930
  • Dr Saurabh Mishra, (University of Sheffield, UK) Milk Adulteration, Public Health and Middle Class Anxieties
  • Dr Erica Wald, Goldsmith, (University of London, UK), Canteens, taxes and illicit drinking in and around military cantonments
  • Professor Harald Fischer-Tine, (University of Zurich, Switzerland) Discussant
  • Dr Pratik Chakrabarti, (University of Kent, U.) The Purity of Water in Colonial Calcutta'
  • Dr Nandini Bhattacharya, (University of Dundee ,UK) Drug Adulteration and the Indian Medical Market between the Wars
  • Professor Nupur Dasgupta, (University of Jadavpur, Calcutta, India) The Medicine Box and Mustiyog: Popular Remedies and Medical Products in 19th century Bengal
  • Dr Projit Mukharji, (University of Pennsylvania, USA) Magical Markets: Spells, Talismans and Amulets in the Medical Markets of Colonial Bengal
  • Ms Manikarnika Dutta, (University of Oxford, UK) Degenerate Space and Drinking Habits: Health of European Sailors in Colonial Calcutta
  • Professor Laurence Monnais, (University of Montreal, Canada) The illegal life of pharmaceuticals : from old narcotics to new pain medicines in French Vietnam
  • Dr Shrimoy Roychaudhuri, (Shiv Nadar University, Delhi, India) Disciplining the Substance: Market and Medical Jurisprudence in 19th century Bengal
  • Dr Martine Van Ittersum, (University of Dundee, UK) Discussant
  • Dr Luke Gibbon, (University of Strathclyde, UK)
  • Professor Jim Mills, (University of Strathclyde, UK)

Travel & Accommodation

Travel & Accommodation

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Visitor Information

Participation in the conference can be easily combined with a vacation in beautiful Scotland. Dundee is Scotland's sunniest city and is located only one hour away from Edinburgh, making it an ideal base for discovering the region.