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Cultural Histories of National Health Care

Cultural Histories of National Health Care Conference

University of Warwick, 18-19 September 2018


Cultural Histories of National Health Care seeks to place the NHS – this popular, contentious, evocative institution – firmly within histories of post-war Britain. The NHS is seen as a key component of the post-war settlement. Despite this, histories of modern Britain may say something brief – and sometimes clichéd – about the foundation of the service, but the subject then strangely fades from view; an absence at odds with its supposed significance. The premise of this conference is that thinking about the NHS is a lens through which to better understand both the post-war moment, and the broader changes in labour, consumer, cultural, social, and political history that followed. While in part assessing how the Service has shaped largescale demographic and political change, this conference focuses on the everyday, the material culture, and the emotional histories of the NHS, and on its multiple meanings as a site which reflects and forges ideas of health, care, identity, and culture. The conference will also assess the extent to which these meanings are part of a distinctive ‘British’ national consciousness, by considering international and transnational perspectives. As such, this conference brings together historians with anthropologists, social scientists, and literary scholars to assess what – if anything – has been distinct about NHS glasses, architecture, workforces, campaigners, and consumers over time. Held in the 70th year of the NHS, the conference will consider why its history matters, and how it should influence historical scholarship and current practice in the future.