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Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine

Professor Pratik Chakrabarti

Research Interests

My research specializations are in the history of medicine, science and global and imperial history, spanning South Asian, Caribbean and Atlantic history from the eighteenth to the twentieth century. My current research is on the Leverhulme trust funded project; 'An Antique Land; Geology, Philology and the Making of the Indian Subcontinent, 1830-1920'. The project investigates the history of the discovery of the geological past of Indian subcontinent in its philological, anthropological and cultural dimensions and its links with the discovery of Indian antiquity. In doing so, the project highlights the unique convergence of mythology and science in India.

I have published four sole-authored monographs. My first book, Western Science in Modern India: Metropolitan Methods, Colonial Practices (2004) was based on my PhD dissertation. Beginning in the eighteenth century, this book reveals a process of knowledge-transfer that involved European surgeons, missionaries and surveyors and Indian nationalist scientists. In the process, it demonstrates how modern science became the idiom of Indian nationhood and modernity. 

My second monograph, Materials and Medicine: Trade, Conquest and Therapeutics in the Eighteenth Century was published in 2010. Through a study of the expansion of British colonialism in the West Indies and South Asia, it explores how medicine was transformed in the eighteenth century in the context of war and commerce and acquired new medical materials as well as a distinct materialism.

My third monograph, Bacteriology in British India: Laboratory Medicine and the Tropics, (2012) is based on the research for a major project; the  Wellcome Trust University Award  on ‘Laboratory Medical Research in Colonial India 1890-1950’ at the University of Kent, 2006-2011. The book provides a social and cultural history of bacteriology and vaccination in colonial India, situating it at the confluence of colonial medical practices, institutionalization and social and cultural movements.

While teaching history of medicine and imperialism, I realised that although there has been prolific new research on colonial medicine in recent years there was a need for a synoptic and thorough analysis of the field. Consequently, I wrote Medicine and Empire, 1600-1960, which was published in 2014 by Palgrave MacMillan. The book provides a global history of imperial medicine focussing on British, French and Spanish empires in Africa, Asia and America from the seventeenth to the twentieth century.

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