Posted on 7 July 2015
We are delighted to announce that Ben Walker (BA Cantab, MPhil) will be joining the joining the Department of History, within which the Centre for Gloabl Health Histories (CGHH) is located, in September to study for a PhD. Ben completed his BA in History at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge and MPhil in African Studies at Peterhouse College, Cambridge. Ben has been awarded a 36-month Wellcome Trust Medical Humanities PhD Studentship under the sponsorship of Prof. Sanjoy Bhattacharya for a study entitled ‘Religion, Medical Aid and International Health: Colonial and Post-Colonial Development, and Smallpox Control and Eradication in Ghana, 1950-1980’.
Ben’s key questions will include: How did ideology and religion figure in competing visions of international health programmes, particularly smallpox eradication and control, in Ghana after 1950? And, how did such debates and ideas influence the efforts of various actors in providing medical aid on the ground? The aim is to provide a unique long-term perspective on how religious and ideological factors influenced the policies of international organisations. The interplay between local politics, medical missions and the aims of their funders, in the context of the emergence of Ghana as an independent state, will be explored. Ben’s thesis will break new ground by a taking a long view, and studying the periods both before and after independence. The project will begin by researching the relations between the state, smallpox structures and missionaries in colonial Ghana.
Overall, this research will propose new ways of studying the health impact of important themes such as colonialism, nationalism, decolonization and dependency. By studying trends across a period that witnessed an upsurge in nationalism, imperial retreat and the formation of a new nation, and by comparing the shape, funding, reach and contributions of medical aid, this study will be able to offer more nuanced analyses of health activities, nationally and internationally. Moreover, my research will be useful for policy initiatives, especially with regard to the activities of the World Health Organisation (WHO) in West Africa.