The Hospital System and Health Care: Sri Lanka, 1815-1960
Margaret Jones
140 x 216 mm
Year of Publishing
Territorial Rights
Orient BlackSwan

There has been an extensive historiographical debate on the role of Western or allopathic medicine in the colonial context. However, most of the literature concentrates on the implementation and significance of public health measures, mental health institutions and the control of epidemic diseases; the role of hospitals per se in this policy transfer has so far not commanded equal attention. An analysis of the medical, cultural and socio-political aspects of hospital development in the colonial context is essential for an understanding of the contribution of Western medicine to the health of indigenous populations and its role in the imperial project.

This book breaks new ground in its exploration of the development of the hospital system in Sri Lanka from the beginning of British rule in 1815 through to the post-colonial period.  Jones consults the records of the colonial and imperial governments, the archives of the International Health Division of the Rockefeller Foundation, the American Ceylon Mission and the World Health Organisation. In so doing she examines government, mission and philanthropic initiatives in the provision of medical services and suggests that while the hospital system was the driving force behind the establishment of free health care as a right of citizenship it also devoured the limited resources available for health care as a whole.

This book is a welcome addition to the growing literature on imperial and colonial medicine and will appeal to historians of medicine, medical institutions and to historians of Sri Lanka through its contribution to the analysis of Sri Lanka’s post-colonial interventionist state. It will also be of interest to researchers in development and international health.
Margaret Jones is Research Officer at the Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine at the University of Oxford. She is the author of Health Policy in Britain’s Model Colony: Ceylon, 1900–1948 (Orient Longman, 2004); and articles relating to medical and social history of Sri Lanka, Hong Kong and Jamaica.


Figures, Illustrations and Maps




PART 1 The Origins and Expansion of the Western Hospital Sector up to 1931

1. Government and Philanthropy: The Establishment of an Infrastructure
2. The Needs of Production and Hospital Expansion
3. Medical Education and the Evolution of a Ceylonese Medical Profession
4. Care and Cure: The Development of General Hospitals
5. Specialist Hospitals
6. ‘Scientific’ Nursing for Ceylon, 1870–1931

PART II Hospitals and the Medical Professions in Late Colonial and Post-Colonial Ceylon

7. “A Truly National Health Service”: Hospitals for a New Nation
8. Medical Education, 1931–1960: Crises and Renewal
9. “A Retarded Though Obedient Follower”: The Nursing Profession after 1931


Appendix 1

Appendix 2



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