Colonialism, Science and Medicine in Modern India module (HY40004)

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Module code


  • Level 4
  • Semester 1
  • 24 places
  • History - School of Humanities
  • Coursework 100%
  • Taught in a 3-hour block on Thursdays 1500-1800


This module aims to:

  • Offer detailed analysis of the histories of science, technology, medicine and environment in colonial South Asia through an intensive study of historiography and primary sources,
  • Explore the varied historiographical debates on introduction of western science and technology, modern state apparatus such as census and surveys and the control of epidemics and public health in colonial South Asia,
  • Explore the debates and intellectual traditions on science, environment, medicine and the praxis of modern technologies in colonial and post-colonial environments,
  • Encourage independent formulation of research problematics.


Dr Nandini Bhattacharya


This module is assessed as follows:

  • Oral Presentation - 15%
  • Historiographical essay 2500 words - 35%
  • Research Essay 3500 words - 50%


  • Deepak Kumar, Science and the Raj: A Study of British India, (2006).
  • David Arnold, Colonising the BodyState Medicine and Epidemic Disease in the Nineteenth Century India, (1993).
  • Mark Harrison, Public Health in British India, (1994).
  • Pratik Chakrabarti, Western Science in Modern India, (2004).

Access the online reading list system

Intended learning outcomes

The student should by the end of the course have acquired a detailed understanding of the following topics:

  • Colonialism and Early European Encounters with pre-colonial South Asia
  • The Asiatic Society of Bengal: Fashioning a Scientific Present and Glorious Past for India
  • Communication Technology: Railways, Post-Office and Telegraph in the British Raj
  • The Trigonometric, Census and Geological Surveys: Bio power and colonial state formation
  • State Power and Irrigation Technology in India
  • Western Science and Popular Culture in Colonial India
  • Race in Tropics: Acclimatisation Debates and British settlement in India
  • Indigenous Medicine: Ayurveda and Unani in Colonial India
  • Drug Markets in British India: Pharmaceuticals, Opium, Cannabis
  • The veil and colonial modernity in medicine: the Dufferin Fund and 'Zenana' missions in India; Charity and Hosptial Medicine in British India
  • Gandhi and the critique of modern science and medicine