Medicine, mobility and the empire

Nyasaland networks, 1859-1960

By Markku Hokkanen

Medicine, mobility and the empire

Book Information

  • Format: eBook
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-2390-9
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Published Date: November 2017
  • BIC Category: Medicine / History of medicine, Humanities / Colonialism & imperialism, Modern History, History of Medicine, History, Colonialism & imperialism, MEDICAL / History, HISTORY / Africa / Central, Africa
  • Series: Studies in Imperialism


David Livingstone's Zambesi expedition marked the beginning of an ongoing series of medical exchanges between the British and Malawians. This book explores these entangled histories by placing medicine in the frameworks of mobilities and networks that extended across Southern Africa and beyond. It provides a new approach to the study of medicine and empire.

Drawing on a range of written and oral sources, the book argues that mobility was a crucial aspect of intertwined medical cultures that shared a search for therapy in changing conditions. Mobile individuals, ideas and materials played key roles in medical networks that involved both professionals and laypeople. These networks connected colonial medicine with Protestant Christianity and migrant labour.

The book will be of value to scholars and students of history and anthropology of colonialism and medicine, as well as a wider readership interested in the plural search for health in Africa and globally.


'Medicine, Mobility, and the Empire deftly combines perspectives from missionary medicine, colonial medicine, and indigenous healing practices. [.] the book will be a useful resource for students and researchers interested in the interactions among indigenous, colonial, and missionary healing networks in South-Central Africa.'
Julia R. Cummiskey, PhD, Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, Vol. 74, No. 2 (April 2019)

'An effective treatment of the issue of intellectual exchanges in the region that helps propel the book beyond just a history of colonial medicine and gives insight into the complex practice of medicine during this period.'
Tiffany F. Jones, California State University, Social History of Medicine, Volume 32 Issue 1, February 2019


Introduction: medicine, mobility and the empire
1 Mobilities, medicine and health in the Malawi region: networks of empire, missions and labour, c.1859-c.1960
2 Laypeople, professionals and the 'Livingstone tradition': assessing European health, spaces and mobilities in South-Central Africa, c.1859-c.1940
3 Spiritual and secular medicine in Malawian-British Protestant mission networks, c.1859-c.1940
4 Knowledge, secrecy and contestation: early medical encounters, c.1859-c.1930
5 African medical middles and migrant doctors, c.1890-c.1960
6 Quinine, malarial fevers and mobility: a biography of a 'European fetish', c.1859-c.1940
7 Colonising African medicines? Central African medicines and poisons and knowledge-making in the empire, c1859-c.1940
Epilogue: mobilities, networks and the making of colonial medical culture


Markku Hokkanen is Lecturer in History at the University of Oulu

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