Talk: Malaria and the War beyond the Western Front

Public Lecture with Professor Mark Harrison, Director of the Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine, University of Oxford
Glass Tank, Abercrombie, Headington Campus, Gipsy Lane site
Tuesday, 29 November 2016, 16:00 to 17:30

This lecture will examine the British Army’s fight against one of its most implacable foes – the mosquito. In most theatres apart from the Western Front, malaria was an enormous drain on morale and military efficiency. It was by no means the only disease that led to heavy losses in theatres such as Salonika and the Middle East, but, along with venereal disease, it proved to be one of the most intractable. Wartime conditions worsened what was already, in many locations, an unfavourable situation as far as health was concerned. Preventive measures proved ill equipped to deal with these conditions, especially when troops were on the move. All armies suffered badly but ideas of racial immunity to malaria were used to justify the replacement of white troops in some theatres with ‘native’ troops from Britain’s imperial territories. This raised political tensions in territories such as India. The lecture will also consider the legacy of the war. The influx of many foreign troops, the destruction of infrastructure, and population displacement had a deep and enduring impact on the health of civilians.
About the speaker

Mark Harrison is Professor of the History of Medicine and Director of the Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine at the University of Oxford. He has written on many aspects of the history of disease and medicine in relation to war and imperialism. His books include The Medical War: British Military Medicine in the First World War (2010) and Medicine and Victory: British Military Medicine in the Second World War (2005), both of which won the Templer Medal Book Prize awarded by the Society for Army Historical Research. He currently holds a Wellcome Trust Investigator Award entitled, ‘Invisible Crises, Forgotten Histories: Malaria in Asia, 1900-Present’.

For further information, please contact: Tudor Georgescu ( and see here.

This seminar is organized in collaboration with The Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum and the Centre for Medical Humanities.