And how the history of Ayurveda intersects with the history of caste

In 1991 historian and Sanskritist Kenneth Zysk, currently affiliated with the University of Copenhagen, published a book titled Asceticism and Healing in Ancient India: Medicine in the Buddhist Monastery. This was a ground-breaking book at the time, offering several new, fascinating insights into the history of Ayurveda and the history…


“Being civilized means making and liking beautiful things”

Philosopher Cyril Edwin Mitchinson Joad’s The Story of Civilization, written in 1931, is one of the best examples of the cliched line that great things come in small packages. All of 94 pages in big font, it packs in some profound philosophy in eloquent, relatable language. I first read it…


A short introduction to the enduring concept

Michel Foucault is well known to researchers and readers in several fields, especially sociology, anthropology, history, and philosophy. Many of his ideas also have to do with another field, modern medicine, though most doctors, nurses, and other healthcare practitioners — at least in my home country, India — have hardly…


“We knew plastic surgery before the time of Christ”

People of most countries have seen and acknowledged the scientific talents and skills of Indian IT (Information Technology) engineers, doctors, as well as social sciences experts. People’s experience with this diasporic Indian community has generally been very positive, and rightly so. …


Historians and geneticists have the same answer

When British colonial writers and part-historians began to write their versions of Indian history in the 1700s and 1800s, they popularized an idea that became known as the Aryan invasion theory. Basically, when Europeans learned about South Asia’s Sanskrit language and discovered its connection with the classical languages of Europe…


Over the past two years I fortunately have had the time and resources to read some excellent scholarship on the history of medicine and public health in India. …


And about dying better

Conversations about end-of-life care have become more mainstream in the past decade. One of the most common entry-points into the topic is the painfully true fact that as a society we focus far more on delaying death than on living a meaningful life till the inevitable end. This is a…


And how it has played out during Covid-19

In August 2020, an Indian court made some observations that certainly will be considered momentous by future historians of medicine and public health. These observations pertain to the discriminatory actions of the Indian state against the Tablighi Jamat, an international community of Islamic missionaries, many members of which caught Covid-19…


Understanding the rationale for therapeutics in the past

One of the most important concepts one learns during training as a professional historian is the “Whig interpretation of history,” which refers generally to “oversimplified narratives that achieve drama and apparent moral clarity by interpreting past events in light of [the] present...” …


What Academic Scholarship Says

Anyone who grows up in India and Pakistan ends up hearing dozens of versions of the 1947 Partition story by the time they reach adulthood. As someone who heard his share of these stories and then went on to study and write history professionally, I can vouch that almost all…

Kiran Kumbhar

Physician. PhD student, History of medicine @Harvard. History & culture of India. Public health. Twitter @kikumbhar. Blog: kirankumbhar.com

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