The album, most likely compiled by Dr. C.H.B. Adams-Wylie, the plague medical officer at the General Plague Hospital in Poona
(Pune), India, from 1897-1898, records the work of that hospital in great detail. The photographs portray the daily work of
the hospital and include portraits of hospital staff, views of the hospital wards and grounds, and detailed close-up studies
of plague patients. Photographs taken outside the hospital compound document the measures instituted by Pune's Special Plague
Committee and enforced by the British and native soldiers, such as forced house inspections and the holding of residents within
observation and segregation camps.
Bubonic plague, as part of the widespread third plague pandemic, reached the Indian subcontinent from China, where it had
first appeared in 1855, around 1896. Appearing first in coastal cities, it spread to the important inland city of Poona (Pune)
in the state of Maharashtra late that year, and by February 1897, with a raging mortality rate double the usual epidemic norm,
half the city's residents had fled to outlying areas. In order to bring the plague under control W.C. Rand, an Indian Civil
Service officer and head of Pune's newly-formed Special Plague Committee, instituted what were seen by the native population
as excessively strict safety measures. These included the use of British and native troops to enforce entry into private dwellings
for the examination of occupants and the discovery of afflicted or deceased persons; removal of residents to hospitals, observation
and segregation camps; the destruction of possibly contaminated personal possessions; preventing plague victims from entering
or exiting the city; restriction of the burial of plague victims to designated rather than traditional burial grounds; and
the banning of traditional Indian medical practices. Although the extreme measures quickly brought the epidemic under control,
response to their severity fomented rebellion in an already politically charged district. Despite the fact that the measures
were lifted on May 19, resentment was such that on June 22 Rand and his military escort, Lt. Ayerst, were assassinated by
the Chapekar brothers on their way home from the celebration of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee at Pune's Government House.
Such events, along with the spread of plague to rural areas, caused the British government to switch tactics and focus instead
on mass inoculation with the plague vaccine developed by the Russian Jewish bacteriologist Waldimar Haffkine.