Unseen Enemy: The English, Disease, and Medicine in Colonial Bengal, 1617 – 1847
Europeans in early colonial Bengal fell prey to new diseases that their limited pharmacopeia, based on an imperfect knowledge of physiology, often failed to treat. This book looks at clinical observations and theories by several English doctors, who, with the encouragement of the East India Company, strove to address these ailments. This enthralling story begins with John Woodall, who never voyaged to India but equipped the surgeons’ chests aboard ships sailing there, and ends with James Esdaile’s contentious work at the experimental Mesmeric Hospital he was permitted to set up briefly in Calcutta.
Sudip Bhattacharya lives and works in Calcutta, and this book, like his first (The Strange Case of Lord Pigot, 2013, also published by Cambridge Scholars), focuses on colonial history. An Associate Professor in English at a prestigious college, Sudip is deeply interested in his city’s rich colonial heritage.
"This study is a richly archival work that looks into the world of early European doctors in Bengal to study their take on indigenous diseases. [...] The author skillfully depicts the flow of knowledge from colony to metropole and vice versa. Perusing the stories, we see how the colony became a hub of laboratory medicine where Balfour could test his own solunar theory and others practice Brunonian Doctrine that had died out in England. [...] Unseen Enemy will be of much use to anyone interested in early Orientalism, Company Raj, histories of disease and medicine, colonial knowledge formation, or the history of Bengal."
Samiparna Samanta Georgia College and State University The Historian, 78:4 (2016)
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