The British Empire Library

Health in Tropical Africa During the Colonial Period

Edited by E. E. Sabben-Clare, D. J. Bradley and K. Kirkwood.

Courtesy of OSPA

Review by H.M.S.
This is the record of a notable conference held at Oxford in 1977, one of the symposia organised by the University's Committee on African Studies to examine different aspects of the economic, social and political life of Tropical Africa in the colonial period and to consider the legacy left to African countries after independence. The book is thus aiming at two readerships, those interested in the colonial past as well as those involved in the post-colonial present, and in this dual objective it succeeds splendidly.

Readerswill be delighted to come across contributions on such themes, commonplace in the colonial life whether one was a medical officer or working in another department, as endemic diseases like leprosy, yaws and tuberculosis, and on epidemic threats such as sleeping sickness, malaria and yellow fever. There are also case-studies of health and medical services in different African countries, among them Tanzania, Nigeria and Uganda, splendidly complemented by the personal accounts of what it was like to be a district medical officer from B. B. Waddy and from R. L. Cheverton. The section on the organization of health institutions includes two discussions of the Uganda experience, the Makerere and the Mengo Medical Schools. The twenty-five papers conclude with the view from the Colonial Office, with comparative views of the colonial legacy from those who worked in the Congo and in French West and Equatorial Africa, and with reflections by Dr. Adetokvmbo Lucas on "What we inherited". Of particular interest will be the names of service friends and colleagues who gave papers or took part in the summary of discussion sessions, for instance, S. G. Browne, L. J. Bruce-Chwatt, D. F. Clyde, A. J. Duggan, T. P. Eddy, J. Ford, M. P. Hutchinson, T. A. M. Nash, and the veteran Cicely Williams, who first went to Ghana as a medical officer in 1929. The remarkably thorough index, too, is guaranteed to send many readers off on a sentimental journey, with names like Gwoza and Girku, Buluba and Mpologoma, Itu and Abinsi.

If we cannot locate this fine tribute to Britain's medical services in colonial Africa, at least we can make sure we 'read all about it' by asking for the book from our public library. And since books on medicine and medical history in the colonial period are somewhat in fashion now, ask too for Hartwig and Patterson's Disease in African History (Duke University, 1978) and P. A. Twumasi's Medical Systems in Ghana (Ghana Publishing Corporation, 1981). A volume a day keeps the doctor away?

British Empire Book
E. E. Sabben-Clare
D. J. Bradley
K. Kirkwood.
Clarendon Press


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