The development of the Department of Health

Historian article

By Hugh Gault, published 16th November 2016

The development of the Department of Health in the twentieth century

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 – for the Home Department, the Colonies, War and India – while he looked after Foreign Affairs himself.  The Presidents of the Boards for Local Government, Trade and Agriculture were included, as were Scotland, Ireland and the Treasury. The President of the  Board of Education was added to the Cabinet when Arthur Balfour became Prime Minister in 1902. In effect, Cabinet responsibilities for people’s health were exercised by the President of  the Local Government Board, with some discrete aspects administered by other departments (for example, inspections under the Factory Laws by the Home Department). This reflected the fact that the state’s involvement in individual  health was then largely concerned with administration of the Poor Law...

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