Public Health or Rural Reconstruction? Developing Pratapgarh District, 1930-1940

by Hillary Bracken

Jan 1, 2009
During the first half of the twentieth century, north India served as an important site in a growing global debate about government efforts to reduce infant mortality. My research is a political and social history of these discussions, from the first decades of the twentieth century to the eve of Indian independence in 1947. My work charts how political and professional interest came to shape the design and mechanisms of maternity and child welfare policy and programs in one province in north India, the United Provinces. Rising nationalist opposition and changing political institutions pushed colonial officials in India to explore new strategies to placate critics in India and abroad. The rhetoric and ritual of maternity and child health activities served as means to consolidate colonial and local political approval. Yet the work of saving Indian babies also facilitated the involvement of international health organizations keen on improving life in Indian villages, and public health training and medical practice within and outside the country. In addition, maternal and child health propaganda and programs also provided ground for local officials, Indian journalists, and medical professionals to establish and challenge political and professional legitimacy.
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