ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Western Medical Education and Women’s Healthcare in Colonial Bengal

Gender, Medicine, and Society in Colonial India: Women’s Health Care in Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century Bengal by Sujata Mukherjee, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2017; pp XXXV + 223, 895.

Social histories of health and medicine in colonial India have emerged as major themes of interdisciplinary research in South Asian history since the late 1990s. These studies aimed at transcending conventional boundaries. Several important works have appeared in recent times on diverse aspects of women’s healthcare in colonial India within the framework of gender, medicine, and society. Among them is Sujata Mukherjee’s authoritative account, Gender, Medicine, and Society in Colonial India: Women’s Health Care in Nineteenth and Early 20th Century Bengal.

The monograph under review takes a broad view of the subject, but focuses, geographically, on Bengal. Mukherjee begins with an impressive introduction which delineates the historiography of the role of medical missionaries in women’s healthcare in India; medicalisation of childbirth; politics of reproductive health; growth of women’s medical education and profession; careers of female practitioners of indigenous medicine; curative facilities for female patients in hospitals and asylums; and philanthropic involvement of British women in designing healthcare for Indian women. This sets the stage for a more nuanced understanding of colonial health policy during the 19th and early 20th centuries in India. Mukherjee says:

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