Empire, Environment and Disease: an Indian Ocean Case Study.

Author(s): Krish Seetah

Year: 2017


Between 1855-59, the island of Mauritius, with a landmass of only 2040 km2, was producing 10% of the world’s sugar: a staggering testimony to the power of imperial influence on ecology. The transformations that this intensification in cane production resulted in were far reaching. One facet that remains poorly understood is the context of disease, despite a well-developed historical narrative .

This paper presents details of a series of malaria epidemics that plagued the island from the 1850s onwards. In 1867, some 41,000 people died from malaria, 10% of the entire population at that time. This massive death toll made the island of particular interest to the medical profession; notably, Roland Ross undertook his first major field research on Mauritius following his seminal discovery of the nature of malaria transmission. The presentation concentrates on the imperial response to malaria. It also discussed how archaeology is contributing to a clearer understanding of the historic context, and potentially, may have utility for contemporary studies of vector-borne disease.

Cite this Record

Empire, Environment and Disease: an Indian Ocean Case Study.. Krish Seetah. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 429805)


Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

min long: -18.809; min lat: -38.823 ; max long: 53.262; max lat: 38.823 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 14972