South Asia Seminar: A Dreadful Scourge: Comprehending Cholera in Early Nineteenth Century India
In 1817-21, cholera spread out of its supposed 'home' in deltaic Bengal to much of the rest of India, marking the beginning of several pandemic waves which engulfed much of the world. Despite its importance, this crucial phase in the history of cholera - and also of India - has received little attention by comparison with outbreaks in later decades. This paper assesses the impact of the epidemics on communities in different parts of India and on colonial governance. In doing so, it tests the applicability of models derived from Western experience and explores the different social dynamics of disease in modern and pre-modern societies.
Mark Harrison has published widely on the history of disease and medicine, especially in relation to the history of war and imperialism from the seventeenth to the twentieth centuries. He is currently working on various aspects of medicine and empire 1700-1947, including a new project on the history of malaria in British India. Recent book publications include Contagion: How Commerce Has Spread Disease (Yale, 2012) and The Medical War: British Military Medicine in the First World War (Oxford, 2010).
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