CAUSES OF THE EXCESSIVE MORTALITY AMONG THE WOMEN AND CHILDREN of the European soldiers serving in India. (Read: May 2nd, 1883). [n.p. but London, and first published in the Transactions of the Epidemiological Society of London. v. 2 1882-83].
1883. 8vo, pp. 23, ; lightly browned throughout; with faint library stamp of the Birmingham Medical Institute on half-title; rebound in modern maroon cloth with printed label on upper cover. First separate edition of this statistical paper, first presented before the Epidemiological Society of London, and published in their Transactions, highlighting the main causes of death amongst European women and children living in India. As Ewart makes clear, the discrepancy between the mortality rates for those in England, as opposed to the families of European soldiers serving in India was ‘appalling’ - and caused primarily due to malaria, dysentery, cholera, contagious diseases, heat and ‘general debility’.
Very much of its time, Ewart’s paper at times makes for slightly uncomfortable reading, but nevertheless provides an invaluable insight into attitudes and theories of the day.
‘In drawing this paper to a close, it has occurred to me that although Government may accomplish much in lessening the excessive mortality among the women and children of the European Army of India, the benevolent objects which it has always had in view will never be attended with the desired measure of success until the maternal parents are taught, in simple, plain and intelligible language, divested of all technicalities, the precepts and principles of personal hygienic and domestic sanitation. That this might be done may be premised from the control which it can and does exercise upon the families of the soldiers through the military department. Thus, every soldier’s wife who can read - and now, thanks to the universal introduction of state education in England, the time is fast approaching when every woman in these realms who may become a soldier’s wife, will be in a position to read - might be taught the principles of hygiene and sanitation, so that, when required to accompany her husband to India, she may realise the vast importance of pure air, pure water, wholesome food, good cookery, plenty of house room, free ventilation daily exercise and bathing, avoiding undue exposure to the sun, efficient clothing, a perfect system of conservancy and absolute cleanliness, etc., in ensuring the preservation of her own health, and the proper management and rearing of her children. It would not, I fancy, be a very difficult matter to furnish her with a sanitary primer, written in plain and simple language, setting forth, very briefly and concisely, all the simple truths necessary for her to know, regarding matters relating to the conservation of her own health and that of her offspring. Such a work - intelligible to the commonest understanding - if mastered and acted upon, supplemented wherever and whenever practicable by lectures, would go some way in improving the health and lessening the waste of life among the women and children of the European Army of India’ (p. 15).
Sir Joseph Ewart (1831-1906) ‘studied medicine at Anderson’s College, Glasgow, and Guy’s Hospital. After qualifying in 1853, he joined the Bengal Medical Service, then a part of the East India Company. At the time of the Mutiny, he was with the Mehwar Bheel Corps at Kherwarra. Having published a Digest of Vital Statistics of the European and Native Armies in India in 1859, he was given charge of the statistical office at Calcutta. He then became successively professor of physiology, professor of medicine and principal of the Calcutta Medical College, senior physician to the College Hospital and senior surgeon to the European General Hospital. As a municipal commissioner and magistrate of Calcutta, he did much for the city’s sanitation and water supply. A breakdown in his health compelled Ewart to return to England in 1876, and he retired three years later, with the rank of deputy surgeon-general. Settling in Brighton, he devoted his energies to municipal affairs. He sat on the town council from 1884 to 1905 and held office as mayor from 1891 to 1894’ (Munks Roll).
Bibliography: OCLC locates a copy of the original paper at the Wellcome.