Crossing colonial historiographies: histories of colonial and indigenous medicines in transnational perspective

Ryan Johnson

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The study of medicine, health and disease in former colonial contexts can no longer be described as new historical territory. Since at least the 1970s, historians have investigated the relationship between so-called western medicine(s), colonial rule and local healing systems, generally focusing on particular regions and European powers: India and the British Empire perhaps being the best example. Recently, however, while such an approach has been invaluable to the field, there has been a call to move away from such narrow approaches. The volume, Crossing Colonial Historiographies, edited by Anne Digby, Waltraud Ernst and Projit B. Muhkarji, is one of the first important publications highlighting the need to place histories of medicine, both ‘colonial’ and ‘indigenous’, in transnational perspective. The editors of the volume themselves have helped lead the way in this respect, developing and advancing concepts such as ‘plural medicine’, and ground breaking histories in the Indian and South African contexts. Their combined knowledge and experience, in this case, has resulted in a collection of fascinating essays that are both largely novel and cutting edge.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages2
JournalSocial History of Medicine
Early online date16 Sep 2011
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2011


  • colonial medicine
  • indigenous medicine
  • medical history

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