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Cholera Vaccination of the Third Gurkhas in India at the time of the 1893 epidemic.

Wellcome Collection

Cholera vaccination of the Third Gurkhas in India at the time of the 1893 epidemic. Reproduction, 1894, of a wood engraving.. Wellcome Collection. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)


Industrialization encouraged the rise of statistics and improvements in medicine and technology. One result was the development of vaccines and inoculations. The first vaccine inoculation against cholera was developed in 1892 at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, by Waldemar Mordecai Haffkine. In this image, we see inoculations in India, which was now a colony of Great Britain. At this time, imperialist powers, mostly from Europe but also the United States and Japan, were conquering most areas of the globe. Britain had the largest empire, and India was its most profitable colony. The Third Gurkhas were Indian troops who fought for the British. Who is giving the inoculations?  Where do you think they came from? Who is receiving the inoculations? What does this image suggest about ethnic differences?  What audience did the artist intend for his work? (Hint: In what language is the caption?) What idea might that audience have about the British Empire in India from viewing this image? What message does this image give us about power relations and medicine?


The significance of this source is the connection it creates between industrialization and imperialism. The Industrial Revolution produced numerous medical advances in the nineteenth century, including this vaccine for cholera, as well as the advanced military technology that enabled the British to conquer and control India. This representation creates for a British audience a view of the benevolence of empire, which underpinned the much-publicized humanitarian motive for imperialism known as the “the civilizing mission” or “the white man’s burden.” This image suggests that the British empire was bringing benefits like “order” and “civilization” to its colonies. The authority of Britain as the colonizer was strengthened through a variety of means, such as knowledge production, technology, and the increasing reach of the state into individuals’ private lives.

Cholera precautions in India: inoculating the 3rd Gurkhas with cholera virus