"Missionaries and their Medicine" is a lucid and enthralling study of the encounter between Christian missionaries and an Indian tribal community, the Bhils, in the period 1880 to 1964. The study is informed by a deep knowledge of the people among whom the missionaries worked, the author having lived for extensive periods in the tribal tracts of western India. He argues that the Bhils were never the passive objects of missionary attention and that they created for themselves their own form of "Christian modernity."
The book provides a major intervention in the history of colonial medicine, as Hardiman argues that missionary medicine had a specific quality of its own -- which he describes and analyzes in detail -- and that in most cases it was preferred to the medicine of colonial states. He also examines the period of transition to Indian independence, which was a highly fraught and uncertain process for the missionaries.