Preprint Articles

The Gospel of Wealth and the National Health: The Rockefeller Foundation and Social Medicine in Britain’s NHS, 1945–60

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Wednesday, February 12, 2020
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This article examines the Rockefeller Foundation’s (RF) engagement with the British National Health Service (NHS) between 1945 and 1960. It argues that the organization morally invested in the success of the NHS because, to them, it offered a world-inspiring model for how to provide medical care following the tenets of social medicine. The RF administratively and financially supported two health centers, in Edinburgh and Manchester, to help realize these ambitions. While the development of both centers exposed conflicting understandings of social medicine, these facilities later became important examples when British health centers expanded in number after the mid-1960s. The article also considers how the shift toward more communal forms of general practice provoked unease regarding privacy among patients. However, strategies used by medical professionals to offset these anxieties helped facilitate public acceptance of forms of care that aligned with the communitarian values of social democracy. The connections between American private philanthropy and British state planning show how a routine visit to the doctor in Edinburgh or Manchester in the 1950s was implicated in the broader politics of postwar global health.

Blowing Smoke Up Your Arse: Drowning, Resuscitation, and Public Health in Eighteenth-Century Venice

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Posted: 
Thursday, February 13, 2020
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This article examines resuscitation practices in the second half of the eighteenth century, especially the new use of tobacco smoke enema machines on people who had been extracted from water with no signs of life. Drownings accounted for a small number and proportion of urban deaths, yet governments promoted resuscitation techniques at considerable expense in order to prevent such deaths. The visibility of drowning in religious, urban, and civic life encouraged engagement with new approaches. Analyzing the deployment of resuscitation practices illuminates three key features of premodern public health interventions: the focus of governments on the logistics of these interventions, the participation of physicians and surgeons at all levels of the professional hierarchy, and the importance of communication.

Dead or Alive? Stillbirth Registration, Premature Babies, and the Definition of Life in England and Wales, 1836–1960

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Monday, February 17, 2020
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When stillbirth registration became mandatory in England and Wales in 1926, it was not to amass statistics in the service of public health. Instead, it was part of broader anxieties that victims of infanticide were being disposed of under the guise of having been stillborn. But because it necessitated distinguishing between the living and the dead, the legislation that introduced stillbirth registration generated debate about the definition of life itself. This focused both on what counted as a sign of life and on questions about the viability of preterm infants. These contentious disputes had serious repercussions for the treatment of premature births well into the twentieth century. Significantly, they also underscore that what classifies a person as dead or alive is never self-evident. Instead, the state’s authorized definition of life is under permanent negotiation as it is always mobilized in the service of particular regimes of power.

The Neglected Role of Buddhism in the Development of Medicine in Late Imperial China Viewed through the Life and Work of Yu Chang 喻昌 (1585–1664)

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Posted: 
Wednesday, February 19, 2020
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Despite significant revisions over recent decades, the field of medicine in late imperial China continues to be defined by a number of problematic boundaries such as that between medicine and religion. In this article I challenge the validity of this boundary through a detailed examination of the life and work of the hugely influential seventeenth-century physician Yu Chang 喻昌 (1585–1664), whose openly Buddhist critique of literati medicine has hitherto largely escaped the attention of medical historians. I argue that Yu Chang’s case, read against the more widespread revival of Buddhism at the time, the important historical role of literati-Buddhist networks, and evidence of many other late imperial physicians’ interest in Buddhism, was not exceptional. A wider reevaluation of Buddhism’s role in the development of medicine in late imperial China as well as its historical neglect is therefore called for.