CfP: When doctors travel overseas. Colonial medicine and the Low Countries, 5 April 2019, Tervuren (BE)

The following call for papers could be of interest to h-madness readers: When doctors travel overseas. Colonial medicine and the Low Countries Spring.

It is part of the Spring Meeting Gewina, and will take  place on 5 April 2019 at the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Tervuren (Belgium). The deadline for submissions is 31 January 2019.

Medicine was an inseparable part of colonialism. Research on tropical diseases was carried out in laboratories. (Ship) doctors supported colonial expeditions. Missionaries tried to push a western ideal of reproduction onto the natives. Colonial companies watched over the health of the workforce in order not to hamper economic production. All of this also added to providing the colonial presence with a humanitarian imprint. This colloquium will focus on the multiple connections between medicine and colonialism, in relation to the Low Countries.

A wide array of topics fits within this larger theme. The chronological frame is set wide: from the founding of the Dutch East India Company up until the Congolese independence. The establishment of a colonial medical infrastructure and organization, the schooling of indigenous medical personnel, the interaction with indigenous patients, the medical aspects of colonial trade, the effect of specific diseases (e.g. scabies, leprosy, sleeping sickness etc.), the religious aspects of disease treatment, are just a few examples of topics that may be discussed.

Of course, the colloquium will pay attention to recent historiographical trends in the research on “colonial” medicine. Scholars are increasingly aware of the influence of colonial medical activities on the motherland, the transnational exchange and creation of medical knowledge on colonized people and regions, the interaction with local healing traditions. How was “colonial” medicine defined? How did universities, research institutions and medical organizations set up medical curricula and research programs with regard to tropical medicine? How did natives handle the widening supply on the medical market as a consequence of the introduction of “western” medicine? The colloquium’s main aim is to gather all participants interested in these and other questions and to stimulate a fruitful discussion.

Proposals, in English or Dutch, of up to 300 words may be submitted by the 31th of January 2019 to and Every speaker will be given 20 minutes for his or her presentation followed by 10 minutes for questions from the audience. The general meeting of Gewina will be held before the conference starts. A guided tour in the renewed Royal Museum for Central Africa (Tervuren), where the meeting will take place, will conclude the day.


  • Gewina – Belgian-Dutch Society for the History of Science and Universities Cultural History since 1750 Research Group of KU Leuven
  • National Committee for Logics, History and Philosophy of Science (Royal Academies for Science and the Arts of Belgium)
  • Royal Museum for Central Africa

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