Autopsies and Caesarean-sections were carried out in Uganda long before the arrival of the colonials
As mentioned in the introduction, an important part of colonial propaganda was the idea that Africans were living in appallingly primitive conditions that were only lifted when European settlers arrived. Crucial to the idea of a primitive Africa improved by kindly colonial overlords was the claim that local medicine was brutal and ineffective. People who arrived with this narrative in mind were thus shocked to see medical procedures successfully carried out. In 1879, for instance, the British explorer R. W. Felkin arrived at an isolated village in Uganda where he saw a pregnant woman give birth, assisted by a healer.
The healer first washed his hands and the woman’s abdomen, anaesthetised her with banana wine, removed the baby and stitched the mother back up. She made a full recovery, and Felkin was shocked to report that the practice appeared to be familiar and long-established from the healer’s manner. Other explorers in Uganda witnessed autopsies being carried out to determine the cause of a person’s death, a crucial weapon against disease and infection. Given what we have already learned about the intellectual tradition of but one African city, Timbuktu, medical knowledge amongst ordinary people should come as no surprise.
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