The colonial ‘female malady’
European women’s mental health and addiction in the late nineteenth century
in Gendered transactions
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Colonial discourse, including colonial medical writings, sought to project the white woman's vulnerability to specific mental health problems. This chapter explores some aspects of European female mental disorder in colonial India, with a focus on neurasthenia. It examines some of the medical approaches to female mental health in nineteenth-century Britain, in order to situate the contemporary gendering of madness in the metropole. The chapter also examines the issue of gendered mental health problems, exploring their perceived linkages with diverse factors such as hot climates, cultural alienation, loneliness and a hectic social life. It explores the condition called 'delirium tremens' among barrack wives which was related to alcohol addiction and could be life-threatening. The chapter concludes with a brief examination of the histories of a few white soldiers' wives, who were admitted to lunatic asylums in Calcutta, Bombay and Madras.

Gendered transactions

The white woman in colonial India, c. 1820–1930

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