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Centre for the Social History of Health and Healthcare, Glasgow

July 22, 2010

By John Stewart

The Centre for the Social History of Health and Healthcare (CSHHH) was set up in 2005 as a research collaboration between historians of medicine and healthcare at Glasgow Caledonian and Strathclyde Universities. It was immediately successful in attracting institutional investment from both universities, including the specially created Chair in Health History at GCU. Equally importantly, a new MSc in Health History was validated in March 2008 – also a joint enterprise between the two universities.

Also in 2008, the Centre gained a Wellcome Trust Enhancement Award around the theme of ‘Health, Healthcare and Society: Environments, markets, life cycle and location’. This broadly based project embraced the various research interests of the Centre’s original members: for example, the work of Patricia Barton and Jim Mills on the history of drugs and pharmaceuticals, that of Arthur McIvor, Janet Greenlees and Ronnie Johnston on occupational health, that of Samiksha Sehrawat on colonial medicine, that of Elaine McFarland and me on healthcare at specific points in the life cycle, and that of Chris Nottingham on healthcare professionals, not least in a specifically Scottish context. These themes have been expanded and enlarged upon, for instance through the work of Annie Tindley on healthcare in the Scottish Highlands and Islands and of Greenlees on maternal and child health and welfare. The Award allows us to support a number of complementary activities.

First, part of the Award was for two PhD studentships that are now in place. This had further consequences in that, for instance, GCU ‘matched’ the Wellcome studentship; you can read about the activities of the student who took up this award – Emily Rootham – on page 11.

Second, the Award allowed for the funding of a range of seminar series, workshops, conferences and annual lectures. So, for example, in April 2010 a meeting was held on ‘Science and the Human Subject in History’ sponsored by the Centre, the Royal Historical Society and the Department of Social Sciences at GCU. A few months earlier, in January 2010, a workshop was held on ‘Child Health in Europe and North America, 1890 to 2000’ with participants from Norway, Sweden, Spain and the USA as well as the UK (with additional support from the Economic History Society). The Centre was also able to provide support for the History of Drugs and Alcohol conference and the Oral History Society conference, both of which took place at Strathclyde in 2009, and the workshop, organised by Catriona Macdonald, on ‘Alcohol and the Scots’ that took place at GCU in early 2010. Among those giving annual lectures have been Professor Richard Rodger (Edinburgh), Professor Steven King (Leicester) and Professor Hilary Marland (Warwick). Our seminar series in the semester just finished, meanwhile, was run by postgraduate students at both universities and supported by the CSHHH and the Strathclyde-based Modern British History Network.

Third, the Centre has been able to host visiting fellows who have research interests complementary to those of its members and who are prepared to give talks on their present work. So far, these have been Professor William Hubbard (University of Bergen) in autumn 2009, delivering a paper on infant mortality in Norway and Scotland, and Professor Linda Bryder (University of Auckland) in spring 2010, delivering papers on Western childbirth practices and on the 1987 enquiry into the National Women’s Hospital in New Zealand.

Fourth, the Award enabled the employment of a Research/Outreach Officer, Rhona Blincow. The Centre takes its outreach and public engagement activities very seriously and has a number of activities planned for the near future. So, for example, she and Chris Nottingham are putting together, with colleagues at the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, a workshop on Glasgow’s Medical Officers of Health, which will bring together historians, practitioners and policy makers. Elaine McFarland, Bobby Pyper (another colleague at GCU) and I are meanwhile planning a day event on John Boyd Orr and Alexander Fleming. Both men were products of Kilmarnock Academy, where the meeting will be held. It is being organised jointly with the Ayrshire Federation of Local History Societies and it is anticipated that it will be well attended and widely reported.

More generally, the Centre seeks to provide a supportive and collaborative environment for both staff and graduate students. A further flavour of this can be had from my colleagues’ contributions on the following pages. More details of activities, publications and so on can be found at our website – http://www.gcu.ac.uk/historyofhealth – which also includes the Centre’s latest Annual Report. Anyone interested in our activities is encouraged to contact either me (John.Stewart@gcu.ac.uk) or Rhona Blincow (R.Blincow@gcu.ac.uk).

Professor John Stewart is Director of the Centre for the Social History of Health and Healthcare, Glasgow, and Professor of Health History at Glasgow Caledonian University.

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