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Digital Archives for indigenous tropical medical Humanities

German Lutheran missionaries, who came to Tamilnadu in south India, from 1706, for the spread of the Gospel, showed more interest for tropical diseases and corresponding herbal medical treatment. As a matter of fact, some such German missionaries collected and sent indigenous medical notes in the form of palmleaves and unpublished manuscripts in “a remarkable haste by the next available ship, for the serviceable information of their European countrymen”. Reason: 300 years ago, in their cold Mediterranean Germany with sub-zero climate, the Germans never happened to know at all, of tropical diseases and hence they did not bring with them any tropical medicine when they were sent here to the hot tropical Tamilnadu. When they suffered for the first time in Tamilnadu from certain tropical diseases, they were cured by the native Tamil doctors, better known as the Siddhars and the Germans were extremely surprised to find the medical expertise knowledge of these native Tamil doctors. As many as 4448 tropical diseases, their diagnostic methods and the indigenous medical prescriptions were all noted down in hundreds of German diaries and were sent to Germany which, I believe, should be now preserved in Francken’s archives of the Martin-Luther University, where I consulted some original source materials for my doctoral research in 1986. More information about these medical aspects can be had from the fourth chapter of my book. These, and hundreds of such original source materials, (for sample, see Photo plate No. 17 in my book)

I understand, are in this archives. It is rather difficult for many research scholars in Asia and elsewhere to visit these archives for want of time and paucity of funds. And even if one could go to this archives, these manuscripts written in Frakturschrift German language, could not so easily be made out especially to an English –knowing scholar. This archives has not put the English version of their holdings in the website, which of course, will be quite a huge task! Through this project, I wish to glean source materials in Francken’s archives, containing data about indigenous medical notes, to translate and to edit them in English and finally to web-cast the entire compilation in an exclusive web-portal, so that thereafter, anyone can access them just by a click of the mouse.