Penularan Penyakit Beri-beri di Penjara Negeri-Negeri Selat: Penelitian Terhadap Sebab dan Langkah-Langkah Kawalannya, 1870-1915 (The Outbreak of Beri-beri Disease In The Straits Settlements Prison: A Study On Its Causes and Control Measures, 1870-1915)

Siti Alwaliyah Mansor, Ahmad Kamal Ariffin Mohd Rus


The establishment of the Straits Settlements (SS) by the British in 1826 and the economic progress which followed directly affected the social environment and local institutions. Among the institutions developed in parallel with such progress were the prisons. The importance of SS prisons is not to be viewed merely from the point of security or punishment, but rather from the more important fact that the inmates of the prisons were the main labour force that served the various socioeconomic development needs. However, by the end of the 19th century, the prisons in the SS were threatened with a high mortality rate due to the outbreak of the beriberi disease. Collaboration between the prison management and medical experts began with the study of the miasmatic theory and the adoption of the dietetic approach but the high mortality rate persisted. The objective of this study is to investigate the causes of beri-beri and to examine the preventive measures that had been carried out by the British on the prisoners in the Straits Settlements Prison within the period of 1870 to 1915. The methodology of the study employed is the qualitative method based on historical disciplinary research. Therefore the study was conducted by reviewing the sources from the National Archives at Kuala Lumpur. Among them are the Straits Settlements Files (SSF), the Colonial Office (C.O), annual reports of the prison department and the medical department. The analysis found that, in the earliest decade of the 20th century, British efforts bore success when the search for the cause of the beriberi illness was traced to the deficiency of thiamine in food diet. This discovery then became the solution to the beri-beri problem in the Straits Settlements Prison besides contributing directly to the health of the prisoners as well as advancing the development of modern medical knowledge.

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JEBAT : Malaysian Journal of History, Politics & Strategic Studies, 
Centre For Policy and Global Governance (GAP), 
Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, 
Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, 43600 UKM, Bangi Selangor, Malaysia.

eISSN: 2180-02551

ISSN: 012-5644