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Health and Society in Bengal

Health and Society in Bengal
A Selection From Late 19th Century Bengali Periodicals

First Edition
Edited by:

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Other Health Specialties

December 2005 | 300 pages | SAGE India

The second half of the 19th century witnessed unprecedented shifts in scientific and medical knowledge in western Europe, which have resulted in many of our present-day notions of health, disease, sexuality, and of the human body and its processes. Some of these notions travelled from Britain to its colonies, notably India, where the introduction and establishment of western medical systems became associated with governance.

This remarkable volume discusses, for the first time, the nature of the interaction between western medical science and local knowledge and practices in late 19th-century Bengal through excerpts from important Bengali medical and scientific journals published between 1850 and 1900. The articles reproduced in this volume not only reveal the various ways in which western medicine combined with local practices, but also depict the customs, traditions, social practices, religion, and economy of 19th-century Bengal.

The five thematic chapters and the overarching introduction together discuss:

  • Contemporary local discourses on the reformulation of both traditional medical systems and of western science—the modernization of ayurveda being the most important case in point
  • The ways in which indigenous medical systems were adapted to meet the aims of national public health programs of the government
  • The categorization of normal and aberrant sexual behavior and the constitution of sexuality as a feature of medical and governmental knowledge
  • Notions of public health, communicable disease, a healthy environment, and so on, which were imported from the West and led to conflicts and tensions in the implementation of related policies

Overall, this important book shows how modern knowledge practices transplanted on to a foreign society were infiltrated in various ways by local practices and knowledge. Original and thought provoking, the volume will appeal to students and scholars of history, medicine, health, sociology and anthropology.


Introduction: Health Science and society in 19th-Century Bengal

Pradip Kumar Bose
Indigenous Medicine and Medical Science

National Health

Sexuality and Sexual Relations

Public Health and Communicable Diseases

Practice and Development of Medical Education



If one expects from this book a mere description of the sanitary condition of 19th century Bengal and debates between two the British (‘Western’) and the local (‘Oriental’) medical systems, one will be pleasantly surprised, because the discourse is not merely comparative…. Bose makes us re-evaluate the debates on colonialism, post-colonialism and internal colonialism in India.

South Asia Research

…this book highlights the need to understand the conflicts between indigenous paradigms and one that is introduced when those interested in health management are involved in changing behaviour as away of improving health…. The book will be useful for sociologist, anthropologists and others interested in health services management…

Journal of Health Management

Pradip Kumar Bose

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ISBN: 9780761934189