Offline: The myth of “decolonising global health”
The Lancet’s inaugural issue was published on Oct 5, 1823. In his opening editorial, Thomas Wakley, our founding Editor, described the journal’s intended audience: London’s physicians and surgeons; country practitioners; medical students; and, rather ambitiously, “every individual in these realms”. Wakley also hoped to reach a fifth category of readers—“Colonial Practitioners”. The Lancet was born as a product of colonialism and, at least in part, as an instrument to support and advance British imperial objectives. This history is important to recall because of the growing movement to decolonise medicine and global health—a project, according to Eugene Richardson’s definition in Epidemic Illusions (2020), to “reject the notion that social inquiry can produce objective, value-neutral, and univocal understanding”. The legacy of colonialism still casts a humbling shadow over The Lancet today. I remember a meeting in Delhi several years ago between editors and the authors of a series of papers on India’s health system. As we began to discuss the suggestions of peer reviewers, one author halted the proceedings. He said that he was not willing to engage with criticisms from western critics invited by a journal complicit over many centuries in oppressing his country and his people.
Richard Horton, Offline: The myth of “decolonising global health”, The Lancet, Volume 398, Issue 10312, 2021, Page 1673, ISSN 0140-6736, https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(21)02428-4.