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'Prejudices clung to by the natives': Ethnicity in the Indian army and hospitals for sepoys, c.1870s-1890s

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Samiksha Sehrawat


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This chapter examines the hospitals provided by the colonial state for its Indian military allies – the loyal sepoys – by tracing the administrative debates regarding the introduction of the station hospital system to replace the regimental system. It analyses the impact of the link between ethnicity and military service in the colonial army on decisions regarding the hospital system to be adopted for Indian troops. While the army authorities sought to reinforce sepoys’ ethnicity – central to their recruitment, army organization and deployment during war – whenever this did not conflict with other interests, there was nothing immutable or changeless about the army’s concern about the ‘prejudices clung to by the natives’ in its employ. Despite the rhetoric regarding the dangers of tampering with Indian customs, other concerns were frequently more important to the colonial state in its decisions regarding medical provision for Indians. In the case of hospitals for Indian troops, the importance of military economizing and of maintaining a body of medical experts recruited from the metropolis repeatedly succeeded in sidelining the concern to preserve the ethnic customs of Indian troops by retaining the regimental hospital system.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Sehrawat S

Editor(s): Pati, B., Harrison, M.

Publication type: Book Chapter

Publication status: Published

Book Title: The Social History of Health and Medicine in Colonial India

Year: 2009

Pages: 151-172

Publisher: Routledge

Place Published: Abingdon and New York


Library holdings: Search Newcastle University Library for this item

ISBN: 9780415501453