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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  • 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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  • The Pioneering Life of Mary Wortley Montagu: Scientist and Feminist

    Article

    The Pioneering Life of Mary Wortley Montagu: Scientist and Feminist, Jo Willett, Pen and Sword, 2021, 256p, £25-00. ISBN 9781526779380 Mary Wortley Montagu was baptised on 26 May 1689 and died on 21 August 1762 in London. From a wealthy aristocratic family, she had great intellectual curiosity and the opportunities...

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  • The death of a hero: Vice-Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson

    Article

    Michael Crumplin comments on the injuries and illnesses that Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson suffered during his shortened career. His bold leadership style, much admired by his naval companions, inevitably led to a series of wounds. Using a combination of contemporary accounts and current clinical, anatomical and physiological interpretation, this article...

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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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  • 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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  • The experience of Bilston in the cholera epidemic of 1831–32

    Article

    Alannah Tomkins introduces a well-chronicled early example of how a local community dealt with cholera. In September 1832 James Holmes, the governor of the workhouse at Bilston in Staffordshire wrote a letter to the salaried parish overseer of Uttoxeter. The initial impetus for the letter came from the two parishes’ shared interest...

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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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  • 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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  • 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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  • 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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  • The NHS: Britain’s National Health Service, 1948-2020

    Article

    The NHS: Britain’s National Health Service, 1948-2020, Susan Cohen, Shire Publications, 2020,64p, £8-99. ISBN 978-1-78442-482-4 For most of us in the United Kingdom, the National Health Service has been a constant feature for all of our lives. Susan Cohen offers us a brief summary of the development and achievements of...

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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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  • 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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  • 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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  • 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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  • The development of the Department of Health

    Article

    Health as a specific feature of central government strategy is a relatively recent phenomenon and Hugh Gault identifies how this feature of everyday headlines in our newspapers has been managed until the present time. At the start of the twentieth  century Lord Salisbury’s Cabinet comprised four Secretaries of State –...

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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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  • WWI and the flu pandemic

    Article

    In our continuing Aspects of War series Hugh Gault reveals that the flu pandemic, which began during the First World War, presented another danger that challenged people’s lives and relationships. Wounded in the neck on the first day of the battle of the Somme, 1 July 1916, Arthur Conan Doyle’s son Kingsley...

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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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