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Year : 2016  |  Volume : 5  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 528-532

Physicians of colonial India (1757-1900)

Ross Clinics, Gurgaon, Haryana, India

Correspondence Address:
Anu Saini
Ross Clinics, Shop 247, The Sapphire Market, Sector 49, Sohna Road, Gurgaon - 122 018, Haryana
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/2249-4863.197257

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The period of British rule from 1757 to 1900 is marked by major sociopolitical changes and scientific breakthroughs that impacted medical systems, institutions, and practitioners in India. In addition, historians have debated whether the colonial regime used Western medicine as a tool to expand and legitimize its rule. This paper reviews the secondary literature on this subject with emphasis on the individual physicians. During this period, the practice of "Doctory" or Western medicine gained momentum in India, buoyed with the support of the British as well as Western-educated Indians. Many Indians were trained in Western medicine and employed by the administration as "native doctors" in the subordinate medical service, and the superior medical service by and large comprised Europeans. The colonial regime gradually withdrew most of its patronage to the indigenous systems of medicine. The practitioners of these systems, the vaidyas and the hakims, suffered significant loss of prestige against Western medicine's claims of being a more rational "superior" system of medicine. Some of them became purists and defended and promoted their systems, while others adopted the methods and ideas of Western medicine into their education and practice. European doctors now rarely interacted with practitioners of Indian systems, but seriously pursued research into medicinal plants and tropical diseases. There is no mention of specialist physicians in this period, and all physicians and surgeons were generalists. Folk practitioners continued to be popular among the masses.

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