Materials and medicine

Trade, conquest and therapeutics in the eighteenth century

By Pratik Chakrabarti

Materials and medicine


  • Hardcover

Book Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-9654-9
  • Pages: 272
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £20.99
  • Published Date: December 2014
  • BIC Category: POLITICAL SCIENCE / Imperialism, HISTORY / Modern / 18th Century, MEDICAL / History, Medicine / History of medicine, Humanities / Colonialism & imperialism, History of Medicine, History, European history, Europe, Colonialism & imperialism, Modern History
  • Series: Studies in Imperialism


Medicine was transformed in the eighteenth century. Aligning the trajectories of intellectual and material wealth, this book uncovers how medicine acquired a new materialism as well as new materials in the context of global commerce and warfare. Bringing together a wide range of sources, this book argues that the intellectual developments in European medicine were inextricably linked to histories of conquest, colonisation and the establishment of colonial institutions.

This is the first book to trace the links between colonialism and medicine on such a geographical and conceptual scale. Chakrabarti examines the texts, plants, minerals, colonial hospitals, dispensatories and the works of surgeons, missionaries and travellers to demonstrate that these were shaped by the material constitution of eighteenth century European colonialism.

This book will appeal to experts and students in histories of medicine, science, and imperialism as well as south Asian and Caribbean history.


Chakrabarti has produced a fascinating and highly readable book, full of unique information and detailed, thoughtful analysis. It will be a catalyst for new comparative research, and it is an essential text for students of colonial medicine, Enlightenment-era science, global trade, and imperialism, as well as specialists in Caribbean and South Asian history.

'This thoughtful comparative study of the distinct medical experiences of India and the West Indies illuminates a wide range of intellectual and cultural changes. It is excellent news that Manchester University Press has now brought out a paperback edition.'
James Robertson, University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaican Historical Review, Vol. 27


1. Trade and treatment: Medicine in the colonies in the age of commerce
2. War, settlement and medicine in the West Indies
3. Terrains, territories and treatment in the Coromandel
4. Materials and materia medica in India
5. Medical botany in Jamaican plantations
6. Therapeutic trajectories in the age of empire
7. Colonialism and the hinterlands of science


Pratik Chakrabarti is Wellcome Lecturer in the History of Modern Medicine at the University of Kent

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