Health & Medicine through Time

Attitudes to sickness and health have played a key role across different civilisations and throughout time. The emphasis placed by the ancient societies of Egypt and Greece on the human body are discussed under this theme and the impact those beliefs had on society as it developed. Changes in welfare and hygiene are explored as are attitudes to cleanliness and the eradication of disease. The radical changes to the understanding, experimentation and application of medicine from the nineteenth century to today are an important part of this theme and are explored here.

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  • Anorexia Nervosa in the nineteenth century

    Article

    First referred to by Richard Morton (1637-98) in his Phthisiologia under the denomination phthisis nervosa as long ago as 1689, anorexia nervosa was given its name in a note by Sir William Gull (1816-90) in 1874. Gull had earlier described a disorder he termed apepsia hysterica, involving extreme emaciation without...

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  • Black Death to global pandemic: London then and now

    Article

    Christine Merie Fox compares the impact of the Black Death on fourteenth-century London with our present-day experience. In 1347, a terrifying disease was carving a path from the East into Northern Africa and Europe. Its entry point into Europe was the south of Italy, via merchant ships from the Black Sea. The...

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  • Child Health & School meals: Nottingham 1906-1945

    Article

    Following Jamie Oliver’s devastating television series on the inadequacy of school meals the present government has been quick to be seen to address the situation. In September 2005, Ruth Kelly, the then Education Secretary, announced a war on junk food in schools.1 This was nothing new, because the history of...

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  • Cholera and the Fight for Public Health Reform in Mid-Victorian England

    Article

    Of the many social changes that occurred during the Victorian age, public health reform is widely agreed to be one of the most significant. In the early Victorian era the vast majority of Britons drank water from murky ponds and rivers, carried to their dwellings in buckets; and their excrement...

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  • Disease and healthcare on the Isle of Man

    Article

    Caroline Smith provides a perspective, past and present, of the experiences of epidemics on the Isle of Man.  In recent times health has been at the forefront of everyone’s minds. Epidemics and pandemics are not new, but the Covid-19 outbreak is probably the first to have such a noticeable effect...

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  • English first-aid organisations and the Provisional IRA mainland bombing campaign of 1974

    Article

    Barry Doyle reveals how the devastating Provisional IRA bombing of two Birmingham public houses in 1974 led to a resurgence in first-aid training and preparation, on the scale with which we are familiar today. Article taken from The Historian 136

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  • Eyam: the plague village 1665-66

    Article

    Richard Stone explores the self-sacrifice of a Seventeenth Century village during an epidemic. History shows us these ‘unprecedented times’ are not that far from previous historical experiences. Lockdown, quarantine, self-isolation, ‘second wave’, ‘third wave’, airborne disease, churches closed; the Covid-19 experience resonates with the plight of the villagers of Eyam, three-and-a-half centuries...

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  • Film: London’s Dreaded Visitation – Epidemic disease in Restoration London

    Article

    This lecture explored the epidemiology of disease in metropolitan London, exploring by reconstructions of local impact in the various parishes north, south east and west of the City from Bills of Mortality, burial registers and the Churchwardens’ accounts which often allow a day by day if not hour by hour...

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  • Florence Nightingale and epidemics

    Article

    Richard Bates reveals how the expertise of Florence Nightingale is just as relevant now as it was in her own life-time. Late in 2020, the Merriam-Webster dictionary chose ‘pandemic’ as its word of the year, writing that, ‘it’s probably the word by which we’ll refer to this period [i.e. Covid-19...

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  • Four faces of nursing and the First World War

    Article

    With the centenary approaching, article after article will appear on battles, the men who fought, those who refused, those that died, those who returned and those that made the decisions. There will be articles on the home front and the women that stepped into the men's shoes often to be...

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  • Glowing in the Dark

    Article

    The twentieth century celebrated many new technologies and just like many of those from the industrial revolution we now know them to be edged with danger and potential long-term damage. Here we learn about the effects that radium, bolstered by its advantages in war time, had on the civilian factory...

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  • Havelock Hall: the East India Company college gymnasium at Addiscombe

    Article

    Trevor James emphasises the importance of this structure in England’s sporting landscape. Tucked behind the houses in Havelock Road in the East Croydon suburb of Addiscombe is a seemingly unprepossessing building, known locally as ‘Havelock Hall’. Now converted into flats, it derives its name from its late nineteenth-century religious use,...

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  • Losing sight of the glory: five centuries of combat surgery

    Article

    Michael Crumplin traces developments in surgery that can be directly attributed to changes in the conduct of war. Little doubt exists that war accelerates and innovates medical care. Today, our armed services can rely upon sound medical treatment if they are sick or wounded, with survival rates of above 90%. This...

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  • Medieval Medicine Podcast

    Multipage Article

    In this HA Podcast Ian Dawson looks at medicine during the medieval period.

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  • NHS Reform Timeline

    Article

    As the recent Health and Social Care Act (2012) shows, the NHS has been subject to much change since its inception in 1948. Having recently celebrated its 64th birthday, the NHS is entering another period of significant change. To mark these changes, and to show them in their historical context,...

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  • Old age care in the time of crisis: London in the sixteenth century

    Article

    In her lecture to the General Strand of the HA Conference, Christine Fox describes the successes and failures of London institutions in dealing with the sixteenth-century crisis of poverty and elderly care. In late medieval and early modern thinking, human life was divided into three stages; youth, maturity, and old age. The latter...

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  • Out and About in South London

    Article

    In an unusual Out and About feature, the Young Historian Local History Senior Prize winner Flora Wilton Tregear shows us what her local area can tell us about the history of public health. Taking the DLR out from Lewisham you pass through Deptford Bridge station towards Greenwich. Here my father...

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  • Plague, Pestilence and Pandemic: Voices from History

    Article

    Plague, Pestilence and Pandemic: Voices from History, [ed] Peter Furtado, Thames and Hudson, 2021, 335p, £20-00. ISBN 978-0-500-25258-1. This book is very timely in its arrival. Peter Furtado, the former Editor of History Today, has provided us with two approaches to the issue of Plague, Pestilence and Pandemic. In the...

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  • Podcast: The Historical Medicalization of Homosexuality & Transvestism

    Article

    In this podcast, Dr Tommy Dickinson of the University of Manchester, looks at the historical medicalization of homosexuality and transvestism.  1. Introduction: the historical medicalization of homosexuality and transvestism  HA Members can listen to the full podcast here Suggested Reading:  Tommy Dickinson (2015) "Curing Queers": MentalNurses and their Patients  1935-1974.  Peter Conrad &...

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  • Real Lives: Commonwealth War Graves Commission memorial: Edward George Keeling

    Article

    Trevor James introduces a victim of an earlier pandemic. As we explore churchyards and appreciate the range of memorials that are revealed, they convey a variety of emotions and other messages. Sometimes they still contain quite unexpected surprises.  The single Commonwealth War Graves Commission memorial in the relatively remote rural Staffordshire village...

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