Young, Michael (2018) ‘For Allah created the English mad, the maddest of all mankind!’: The Mental Health of the British in Colonial India, 1900-1947. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

The thesis investigates the theory that there were many physical and social factors inherent in the lives of the British in colonial India in the twentieth century which predisposed some of them to mental illness. It seeks to learn more about those individuals who became mentally distressed during their service to the Raj and the treatment they received.

The study begins with an interrogation of the literature of the history of modern Western psychiatry and its relevance to colonial India between 1900 and 1947. With the use of contemporaneous text books and Indian professional medical journals it explores how psychiatry was implemented in the sub-continent.

These considerations are followed by an exploration of the physical and social determinants of stress in such areas as climate and topography. It identifies the stressors associated with the artificial and archaic society of Britons in India, who are shown to be an ethnic minority determined to preserve their privileged position. The use of the cultural web, an investigative tool adapted from the study of organisational change, illustrates how the colonial rulers were incapable of changing their lifestyle as national and international developments began to impact on them as a community.

Evidence is provided showing how the profession of psychiatric nursing was generally ignored by the colonial nursing establishment and often disparaged by doctors. Previously unseen medical case records from the European Mental Hospital at Ranchi in northern India give insight into the practice of psychiatrists and their attitudes to their patients. It identifies the rapidity with which methods of treatment newly developed in Europe were implemented at the hospital.

The thesis concludes that there were many stressful factors in British life in colonial India which could lead to mental illness and identifies several topics suitable for further academic research. It also shows that the European Mental Hospital in India was in the forefront of international psychiatric practice in the 1920s and 1930s.

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