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Title:Beyond 'The Way of God': missionaries, colonialism and smallpox in Abeokuta
Author:Oduntan, Babatunde Oluwatoyin
Periodical:Lagos Historical Review (ISSN 1596-5031)
Geographic term:Nigeria
Subjects:medical sciences
traditional medicine
Abstract:This article explores the ways the people of Abeokuta, Nigeria, encountered smallpox disease in the 19th century and early 20th century. It looks beyond the notion of conflict between Yoruba healing ways and European medicine to uncover multiple adoptions and adaptations of medical ideas during this time. In the 19th century missionary and colonial medical knowledge were not always exact, or superior to Yoruba ways. The Christian missions' primary objective was to eliminate traditional religion, and concomitantly local healing practices which were assumed to be inherently permeated by Yoruba deities and 'demons.' However, this article argues that a more critical engagement of the sources shows a circulation of many medical ideas were either appropriated or discounted as people, irrespective of race and persuasion, pursued the best solutions to their medical needs. The article shows and discusses how the people of Abeokuta encounter the small pox epidemic in the late 19th century together with the introduction of vaccination; and when colonial rule was established, how conflict came about when traditional religious ways of dealing with the disease clashed with colonial methods. The author highlights Yoruba medical history as ever evolving by which the Yoruba understood, engaged, tried to cope with, and cure the small pox disease and which did not preclude conflict and foreign medical ideas. The article sets out to show the inadequacy of 'cultural-contest' as the paradigm through which the history of medicine and healing in Yoruba is rendered. Notes, ref., sum. [Journal abstract]