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Livelihoods, livestock and veterinary health in North India, 1790–1920
Author: Saurabh Mishra

The question of cattle has been ignored not just by scholars working on agrarian conditions, but also by historians of medicine in India. This book is the first full-length monograph that examines the history of colonial medicine in India from the perspective of veterinary health. It not only fills this gap, but also provides fresh perspectives and insights that might challenge existing arguments. The book explores a range of themes such as famines, urbanisation, middle-class attitudes, caste formations etc. One of the most striking features of veterinary administration was its preoccupation with the health of horses and military animals until the end of the nineteenth century. Examining veterinary records, it becomes evident that colonial officials were much less imbued with the 'white man's burden' when it came to preserving indigenous cattle stock. The book shows that the question of finances could influence areas such as laboratory research, as is evident in the operations of the Imperial Bacteriological Laboratory. In its account on famines and cattle mortality, it highlights the meagreness and ineffectiveness of relief measures. The book then examines the question of caste identities, especially that of the Chamars (popularly known as leatherworkers). It also explores the process whereby stereotypes regarding caste groups were formed, inspecting how they came to be crystallised over time. A central concern of the book is to study the nature, priorities, and guiding principles of the colonial state. Finally, the book adopts a long-term perspective, choosing to study a rather long chronological period.

Abstract only
Saurabh Mishra

This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book begins its life as a predominantly medical history project, and deals with subjects such as bacteriology and the veterinary administration. A central concern of the book is to study the nature, priorities, and guiding principles of the colonial state. The book shows that the question of finances could influence areas such as laboratory research, as is evident in the operations of the Imperial Bacteriological Laboratory at Muktesar. It also deals with famines and cattle mortality, and highlights the meagreness and ineffectiveness of relief measures. The book explores, in detail, the process whereby stereotypes regarding caste groups were formed, and how they came to be crystallised over time. It presents a running medical history theme, as they deal with issues such as toxicology, medical jurisprudence, and the nature of early veterinary institutions.

in Beastly encounters of the Raj
Saurabh Mishra

This chapter explains the practice of horse breeding within the institutional matrix of colonialism. It highlights its affinities with the economic impulses that animated the Raj during the initial years, when the question of land revenue settlement, property rights, trade, and markets were being extensively discussed. The chapter challenges the partial occlusion of the economic, and argues that it was indeed the touchstone with which policies around several subjects like horse breeding were examined and implemented by the colonial state. It highlights the aspects of pre-colonial patterns when the British began to import breeding stock from the homeland in large numbers while discussing their links with larger colonial ideologies and tenets. The chapter shows a study of early veterinary developments reaffirms the strong military connection of the subject of horse breeding.

in Beastly encounters of the Raj
Saurabh Mishra

In their discussion on livestock until now, authors have looked mostly at the nature of the colonial state, while touching briefly upon the reactions of various indigenous sections to government policies. This chapter looks much more closely at indigenous reactions to government policies, especially in the context of famine relief. It also looks at famine relief policies, and examines the ways in which they were shaped due to the influence of the reigning doctrines of free trade and Malthusianism. With respect to the issue of protection of livestock, at least, the state justified its relative inactivity using the threefold logic of free trade, Malthusianism, and financial prudence. The chapter also examines the practical fallouts of these arguments while looking, in particular, at certain key measures such as the construction of cattle camps, distribution of grass/fodder, and other provisions such as forest-grazing and tacavi loans.

in Beastly encounters of the Raj
Saurabh Mishra

This chapter focuses much more on the activities, ideas, and notions of colonial officials, and less on the indigenous responses to them. It highlights the process whereby the identity of Dukhi Chamars, popularly known as leather workers was crystallised. The chapter focuses on the legal–judicial mechanism, the nature and meanings of what was known as 'oriental crime', the use of scientific rationale to establish crime, and the larger process of crystallisation of caste stereotypes. It then deals with certain fundamental questions regarding the incidence and spread of cattle poisoning. Cattle poisoning as a crime made its first major appearance in 1854, when George Campbell claimed to have single-handedly unearthed an extensive network of Chamar poisoners who allegedly indulged in the crime for the sake of hides.

in Beastly encounters of the Raj
Saurabh Mishra

This chapters looks at how villages and village life was perceived by the growing middle class in rapidly urbanising cities such as Calcutta. The question of adulteration of food items, in the chapter, became a metonym for all the various problems that plagued the middle-class existence. In the second decade of the twentieth century, a completely unforeseen new development suddenly transformed the nature and intensity of all existing debate surrounding ghee adulteration. These new developments created new anxieties, and the middle class had nowhere else to turn to for redress but the colonial state. As a result of these growing fears, a number of laws were passed on the subject of adulteration from the 1880s onwards. A huge factor that contributed towards building up the public furore around adulteration, especially of milk and milk products, was the new concern for the rising child mortality rates.

in Beastly encounters of the Raj
Saurabh Mishra

This chapter examines whether the late colonial state was divested of the predominantly military aims that had governed its actions during the earlier phase, at least as far as veterinary health was concerned. It aims to study colonial veterinary policies in detail, and to point out the various ways in which these policies differed from those implemented in case of human health. J. H. B. Hallen, first Inspector General of the Civil Veterinary Department in 1892, became entirely preoccupied with horse-breeding issues despite his passionate and strong views on the subject of cattle murrains. In the Indian context, horses were of little or no use from an agrarian perspective and were not therefore preferred as domesticated beasts of choice, except in military situations or in situations where rapid transportation was needed. The chapter also examines whether similar influences were at work in determining the nature of veterinary training in India.

in Beastly encounters of the Raj
Saurabh Mishra

This chapter explores issues such as the relationship between the scientific core and its peripheries, the autonomy of Metropolitan laboratories, and the impact of the colonial context on the nature of scientific research. The metropolitan influence could be strongly detected in the fact that the new science of bacteriology itself was taken up seriously by colonial scientists. Though there were a lot of continuities between older disease theories and the new germ theory, it is clear that bacteriology had come to be seen as path-breaking and innovative. The chapter focuses mostly on the Muktesar laboratory, though Pasteur Institutes also be discussed in order to provide a broader picture of bacteriological developments. Within India itself researchers were keen to move away from the heat and dust of the tropics and into the temperate hills. The chapter also explores the history of bacteriology in India which is replete with such peculiarities.

in Beastly encounters of the Raj
Abstract only
Saurabh Mishra

This conclusion presents some closing thoughts on the concepts discussed in the preceding chapters of this book. The book argues that it was the military and financial compulsions that drove the colonial state away from the concerns of the rural population, especially the concerns of the poorer class of peasants. Besides looking at the relationship between the colonial state and various classes or castes, one of the major preoccupations of the book is to integrate the larger social history of cattle in India with medical or veterinary issues. Far too often there has been a tendency to look at medical issues in an isolated manner, as if they were divorced from larger social realities. The book challenges such approaches and seeks to bring together medical and social history in a common narrative.

in Beastly encounters of the Raj