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Diagnosing the medical history of British imperialism

Greenwood, Anna

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Professor of Health History


In the past two decades, particularly, the gross inequities and violence of British colonialism have increasingly featured within popular and academic histories. Yet despite the innumerable wrongs inherent in imperialism, surely the history of the western colonial medicine provides one example of colonial governance having had its heart in the right place? From the mid-19th century, the British empire saw the regular dispatch of thousands of doctors and nurses into remote areas which until that point had had little systematic contact with western biomedical treatments and public health initiatives. For all the blood on British hands politically, were the hospitals built, the drugs distributed, and the research money ploughed into tropical disease research not defensible imperial beneficences?


Greenwood, A. (2022). Diagnosing the medical history of British imperialism. Lancet, 400(10354), 726-727.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Aug 31, 2022
Online Publication Date Sep 3, 2022
Publication Date Sep 3, 2022
Deposit Date Sep 5, 2022
Publicly Available Date Mar 4, 2023
Journal The Lancet
Print ISSN 0140-6736
Electronic ISSN 1474-547X
Publisher Elsevier BV
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 400
Issue 10354
Pages 726-727
Keywords General Medicine; history; imperialism; empire
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information This article is maintained by: Elsevier; Article Title: Diagnosing the medical history of British imperialism; Journal Title: The Lancet; CrossRef DOI link to publisher maintained version:


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