Exchanging Notes: Colonialism and Medicine in India and South Africa

Image courtesy of Wellcome Trust.
Image courtesy of Wellcome Trust.

Nandini Chatterjee
History Department, University of Exeter

Review of Poonam Bala ed. Medicine and Colonialism: Historical Perspectives in India and South AfricaLondon: Pickering and Chatto, 2014. Empires in Perspective Series. 240 pp. £60 (hardback) ISBN 13: 9781848934658; £24 (e-book) 9781781440872.

medicine and colonialism bookThe recent surge of interest in imperial history has been cross-fertilised by work on a number of other themes, such as knowledge formation, law and governance and trans-national connections. This collected volume of essays very usefully brings together a number of these trends to bear upon the crucial area of colonial medicine. Self-consciously aiming to be a comparative work and taking material from India and South Africa, it takes its cue from earlier works that aimed to ‘de-centre’ the metropolis-periphery model of conceptualising empire and colonialism.[1] While re-asserting the centrality of medical knowledge and practices to colonial rule, and the importance of the bodies of the colonised as sites for the exercise of colonial power, the book aims to move beyond a model of hegemony, domination and control. Instead, as the introductory essay outlines, the book’s trans-national methodology is intended to highlight ‘policies of European adaptation and resistance to initiatives of the colonized’ and the ‘transfer of ideas and knowledge in mutual engagements.’

Continue reading “Exchanging Notes: Colonialism and Medicine in India and South Africa”

At the ‘Crossroads of Empire’

JCPC exhibition context

Piers Ford

Cross-posted from the Arts & Humanities Research Council.

The London exhibit on law and the British Empire, spearheaded by the Centre’s own Dr. Nandini Chatterjee, has had more than 25,000 visitors so far, and is open to the public until September 26th.

[…] The exhibition – A Court at the Crossroads of Empire: Stories from the JCPC – opened for a two-month run at the beginning of August 2014. Curated by a team of academics related to the “Subjects of Law” network, led by Charlotte, Nandini, and Dr Stacey Hynd (also from the University of Exeter), it traced the JCPC’s evolution from its foundation in 1833 to the emergence of the Commonwealth in the 1950s, largely through the stories of individuals whose cases often had a direct impact on commerce and legal practice, as well as the appellant’s own future – for better or, as it occasionally turned out, worse. Continue reading “At the ‘Crossroads of Empire’”

Legal Crossroads of Empire: Exeter Historians’ Exhibit Opens This Week

Dr Nandini Chatterjee
History Department, University of Exeter

Mughal Emperor, seated, handing the Grant of Diwani to Lord Clive, 1765. © The British Library Board, Foster 29
Mughal Emperor, seated, handing the Grant of Diwani to Lord Clive, 1765. © The British Library Board, Foster 29

On 31 July, the exhibition titled “A court at the crossroads of empire: stories from the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council” will open at the UK Supreme Court, London. You won’t want to miss it. There is colour and drama, and stories that range from murder to child custody, and from Australia to the Caribbean. And there is going to be a very cool touchscreen map of the world, offering more for those who want to go deeper into the areas of the world that the stories told in the exhibition relate to. Continue reading “Legal Crossroads of Empire: Exeter Historians’ Exhibit Opens This Week”

New Digital Resource: The British Empire’s Judicial Committee of the Privy Council

Nandini Chatterjee

Royal_Arms_of_the_United_Kingdom_(Privy_Council)
Royal Arms of the Privy Council

International Law and Legal Pluralism, British Style

In 2008, the then Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan Williams courted controversy. He stated that recognition of certain aspects of Islamic law, Shari‘a, was essential for Britain in the interest of community cohesion. ‘As a matter of fact’, he said, ‘certain provisions of sharia are already recognised in our society and under our law’. The erudite archbishop was referring primarily to religious principles being valid bases for conscientious objections, and alternative marital dispute resolution methods. But had he chosen to use historical material, Dr. Williams would have had far more to go on.

And that is where my new digital archive project would have come in most handy to the archbishop. Shari‘a – alongside Hindu, Buddhist, Chinese, Jewish, and African customary laws – has indeed been part of the British legal system for a very long time. It has been administered by the final court of appeal for the British Empire, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. This tribunal, which sat in London, was originally an expression of royal prerogative. Then, in 1833, it was given its modern form. Between then and 1998, it has heard around 9,000 appeals from all over the British Empire. Continue reading “New Digital Resource: The British Empire’s Judicial Committee of the Privy Council”