Hello, and welcome to Imperial Measures!
Imperial Measures is a Wellcome-funded research project looking at the role of alcohol (primarily beer, ale and porter) in medical practice across colonial British India c.1850-1947. Over the next 8 months, I’ll be spending a lot of time in the India Office Archives at the British Library digging through things like army medical reports, quartermaster and commissary bills of sale, personal correspondence, court records, and diaries. The point of all this is to explore the social and cultural embeddedness of drinking within colonial society.
The project (I hope!) will have impact on scholarly understanding of the role of beer, ale and porter within colonial medical practice, as well as offer insight into how modern habits and social concerns over drinking are shaped directly by the past. Alcohol and drinking were an ever-present aspect of Anglo-Indian life yet remain a largely neglected aspect of the history of colonial medicine. I’ll be shedding light on how drinking features in medical practice, but also consider how drinking intersects with other illnesses and ailments particular to British experience of India, both mental and physical.
In addition to their role within medical practice, the British taste for the types of beer, ale and porter consumed in India has a long legacy to which the contemporary craft beer boom is testament, and I’ll be engaging directly with this hangover from Anglo-Indian life, considering how and why public appetite for these drinks, as well as anxieties associated with them, have remained constant.
As all this goes on, I’ll be using this blog space to document the life of the project – I’ll be showcasing some of the more intriguing or eye-opening sources that I uncover, as well as posting items of booze-related interest on a semi-regular basis. I’ve also invited some monthly guest blogs from other scholars, writers and people working on alcohol and connected topics, so make sure to look out for those.
I’d be really grateful if you could share this page around, and would love to hear from anyone interested in colonialism, beer, or any aspect of my research – please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Until next time, cheers!
Image Credit: Wellcome Library, London, V0019364: Visitors watching beer fermenting in a large brewhouse. Wood-engraving, c. 1847.