In 1866 Patrick Manson, a young Scottish doctor fresh from
medical school, left London to launch his career in China as a port
surgeon for the Imperial Chinese Customs Service. For the next two
decades, he served in this outpost of British power in the Far
East, and extended the frontiers of British medicine. In 1899, at
the twilight of his career and as the British Empire approached its
zenith, he founded the London School of Tropical Medicine. For
these contributions Manson would later be called the "father of
British tropical medicine."
In Imperial Medicine: Patrick Manson and the Conquest of
Tropical Disease Douglas M. Haynes uses Manson's career to
explore the role of British imperialism in the making of Victorian
medicine and science. He challenges the categories of "home" and
"empire" that have long informed accounts of British medicine and
science, revealing a vastly more dynamic, dialectical relationship
between the imperial metropole and periphery than has previously
been recognized. Manson's decision to launch his career in China
was no accident; the empire provided a critical source of career
opportunities for a chronically overcrowded profession in Britain.
And Manson used the London media's interest in the empire to
advance his scientific agenda, including the discovery of the
transmission of malaria in 1898, which he portrayed as British
The empire not only created a demand for practitioners but also
enhanced the presence of British medicine throughout the world.
Haynes documents how the empire subsidized research science at the
London School of Tropical Medicine and elsewhere in Britain in the
early twentieth century. By illuminating the historical enmeshment
of Victorian medicine and science in Britain's imperial project,
Imperial Medicine identifies the present-day privileged
distribution of specialist knowledge about disease with the
lingering consequences of European imperialism.
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