India Office Medical Archives Project Alex Hailey

The India Office Medical Archives project has been funded by a Wellcome Trust grant to identify and catalogue material relating to disease and public health in British India, 1780-1914. To date, over 3,500 items have been catalogued, and authority files created for key subjects, institutions and individuals.

The project has built on the work of the AHRC-funded guide by Richard Axelby and Savithri Preetha Nair, Science and the Changing Environment in India 1780-1920 (London: British Library, 2010) and on the recent digitisation work of the Botany in British India project.Whilst the focus has been on disease and public health, the project has also catalogued material relating to medical and economic botany and the drug trade.

The collections are a rich source of information for the cultivation and trade in cinchona and its products.For instance, the recently catalogued Government of India Medical Proceedings (catalogued 1873-1914) contain a wealth of material on the establishment of the Government cinchona plantations.

Reports and correspondence from key figures including George King, William McIvor, J E Howard, John Broughton and Johan Eliza de Vrij can be found in the proceedings, as well as documents regarding the development of mossing and alkaloid extraction techniques. The records also feature case studies submitted by Officers of the Indian Medical Service on the trials with various febrifuges.


The collections also feature material regarding the wider trade in cinchona and correspondence with private traders, discussing offers to supply the Government of India, the price of bark and quinine, and the distribution of quinine via the Post Office.

In addition to the cinchona material, the collections contain copies of materiamedica and pharmacopeia prepared by Officers of the IMS, as well as accompanying correspondence on Indian plants and preparations, items available in local markets, and reports of the various Indigenous Drugs Committees.

Materials can be accessed at the Library via the Search Our Archives and Manuscripts catalogue.

As a Wellcome Trust Research Resources-supported collection, researchers from all disciplines can apply for a Research Bursary when working with IOMA project material.