Pratik Chakrabarti

Pratik Chakrabarti, FRHistS

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Biography

Pratik is Chair in History of Science and Medicine, at the Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine (CHSTM), University of Manchester. He is also the Director of CHSTM.

Pratik joined the University in 2015 as a ‘Project Diamond’ appointment. Previously he was a Reader in History at the School of History, University of Kent. He joined Kent as a Wellcome Lecturer in History of Modern Medicine in 2006. Prior to that, he was a Research Fellow at the Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine, University of Oxford, UK (2002-2006).

Pratik received his PhD from the Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India in 2000. He taught in India, before coming to the UK.  

Pratik has contributed widely to the history of science, medicine, and global and imperial history, spanning South Asian, Caribbean and Atlantic history from the eighteenth to the twentieth century. He has published five sole-authored monographs and several research articles in leading international journals on the history of science and medicine. 

Beyond research and publication, Pratik has attracted research funding and has secured a number of large and smaller grants for his research. He joined the University of Kent with the Wellcome Trust University Award, for his project on laboratory research in British India. In 2012, he was awarded the Leverhulme Trust project grant for his project; ‘An Antique Land; Geology, Philology and the Making of the Indian Subcontinent, 1830-1920’.

Pratik is a UK REF 2021 Panel Member (History). From 2010 to 2018 he was one of the editors of the leading peer-reviewed journal, Social History of Medicine, published by the Oxford University Press. In this role, he had expanded the scope of the journal in global and imperial histories. He is also one of the judges of the prestigious Dan David Prize on the History of Health and Medicine, 2020-2021.  He also sat on the editorial boards of other journals in the history of science and medicine. He has been invited to present papers at colloquia in UK, India, Japan, USA and Europe on the history of science/medicine, globalization and ecological history. 

In 2020, Pratik delivered several keynote lectures on themes such as Decolonization, racism (Is Deep History White?) the Anthropocene (Anthropocene and the Challenges of Deep Historical Imagination) and the global history of Science (Do we need a Global History of Science?).

 

Research interests

My research specializations are in the history of medicine, science and global and imperial history, spanning South Asian, Caribbean and Atlantic history from the eighteenth to the twentieth century. My most recent research monograph, Inscriptions of Nature: Geology and the Naturalization of Antiquity was published by Johns Hopkins University Press (2020). The monograph is based on the major Leverhulme trust funded project; 'An Antique Land; Geology, Philology and the Making of the Indian Subcontinent, 1830-1920', of which I was the Principal Investigator. The grant was for the period 2013-2016. The book captures the historical moment when the past became naturalised. In doing so, it challenges the way we have imagined the relationship between nature and history. It argues that how we think about the past became indelibly stained by our ideas of the history of nature, landscape and geography in the nineteenth century. The book also argues that due to this naturalization of the past, geomythologies acquired powerful naturalised motifs in India. This became especially vivid and articulated in the nineteenth century when myths were linked to specific geographical sites and geological phenomenon. In other words, myths appeared real as they were inscribed into the landscape and thereby into the deep past of the nation. For this project, I worked with Dr Joydeep Sen who was my RA. Cam Sharp Jones is completing her PhD (Colonial ethnography and human antiquity in India, 1820-1900) funded by the project

Prior to my Leverhulme Trust funded project, my research was funded by the Wellcome Trust University Award, ‘Laboratory Medical Research in Colonial India, 1890-1950’, funded by the Wellcome Trust, November 2005, Grant: 078703/Z/05/Z. The project was active for the period 2006-2012.

Apart from my recent book, I have published four other sole-authored monographs. My first book, Western Science in Modern India: Metropolitan Methods, Colonial Practices (2004) was based on my PhD dissertation. Beginning in the eighteenth century, this book reveals a process of knowledge-transfer that involved European surgeons, missionaries and surveyors and Indian nationalist scientists. In the process, it demonstrates how modern science became the idiom of Indian nationhood and modernity. 

My second monograph, Materials and Medicine: Trade, Conquest and Therapeutics in the Eighteenth Century was published in 2010. Through a study of the expansion of British colonialism in the West Indies and South Asia, it explores how medicine was transformed in the eighteenth century in the context of war and commerce and acquired new medical materials as well as a distinct materialism.

My third monograph, Bacteriology in British India: Laboratory Medicine and the Tropics, (2012) is based on the research for a major project; the  Wellcome Trust University Award on ‘Laboratory Medical Research in Colonial India 1890-1950’ at the University of Kent, 2006-2011. The book provides a social and cultural history of bacteriology and vaccination in colonial India, situating it at the confluence of colonial medical practices, institutionalization and social and cultural movements.

While teaching the history of medicine and imperialism, I realised that although there has been prolific new research on colonial medicine in recent years there was a need for a synoptic and thorough analysis of the field. Consequently, I wrote Medicine and Empire, 1600-1960, which was published in 2014 by Palgrave MacMillan. The book provides a global history of imperial medicine focussing on British, French and Spanish empires in Africa, Asia and America from the seventeenth to the twentieth century.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities

Education/Academic qualification

Doctor of Philosophy, Western science and modern India: institutions, individuals and discourses, Jawaharlal Nehru University

Award Date: 1 Mar 2000

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