Colonial Enterprise in India

Consider the colonial enterprise in India against the backdrop of the European “enlightenment” in which there was first a mapping of the physical universe (Geometry is the language of God – so go out there and measure!), and then a mapping of the human universe, in which the subject of knowledge of the first exercise becomes also the object of knowledge in the second.  An Authority was established that represents another culture, including its knowledge, from the outside; that is the colonial enterprise.

Indian culture was mapped extensively by its colonial rulers, largely by missionaries.  It’s botanicals and medicines, treatments and magic, healers and their systems were catalogued and exported to the West.  The colony was “farmed” for whatever resources might be valuable.  This slice of intellectual capital brought almost immediate great health benefits to the west and enormous financial rewards as it spawned a pharmaceutical revolution.

Even though small pox vaccination (subcutaneous insertion of dried pustules from previous year infections) was banned by the British rulers in India in 1802 on “humanitarian” grounds, the knowledge of it certainly didn’t escape them.  From the mid 18th century, countless studies and volumes of research on knowledge deemed theologically incorrect, contributed to huge advances in immunology, surgery, and the establishment of what we now call modern medicine.