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'Healing of Bodies, Salvation of Souls': Missionary Medicine in Colonial Tanganyika, 1870s-1939

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This paper re-examines missionary medicine in Tanganyika, considering its relationship with the colonial state, the impulses that led it to evolve in the way that it did, and the nature of the medical services it offered. The paper suggests that, contrary to traditional depictions, missionary medicine was not entirely curative in focus, small in scale, nor inappropriate to the health needs of the communities in which it was based. Rather, missionary medicine should be considered as a vital aspect of early colonial health services, serving those excluded by the colonial state. Missionary medicine before 1945 was fragmented, small-scale, lacking in resources and overstretched. Its services could not necessarily compete in quality with the best of the state hospitals. But it succeeded, within the local context, in providing a network of health services that stretched into the rural society, and ensured that, where there was a mission hospital, there was an option for the local people to make western biomedicine a choice for healing.


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Affiliations: 1: School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG;, Email:


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