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Week 18: State Medicine and the National Health Service

Lecturer: Mathew Thomson

This seminar reflects on the shifting relationship between the state and medicine since the start of the twentieth century. It examines the reasons for a shift of emphasis towards state provision, but also the increasing problems experienced since the 1970s. In addressing the shifting relationship between health care and the state, the seminar pays particular attention to the National Health Service in Britain.


Discussion/Essay Questions

What factors encouraged a rise of state medicine in the twentieth century?

Why has state medicine encountered difficulties since the 1970s?

What accounts for the longevity and popular appeal of Britain’s National Health Service?


Required Readings:

Martin Gorsky, ‘The National Health Service, 1948-2008: A Review of the Historiography’, Social History of Medicine, 21 (2008), 437–460 [e-journal]

John Pickstone, ‘Production, Community and Consumption: The Political Economy of Twentieth-Century Medicine’ in Roger Cooter and John Pickstone (eds), Medicine in the Twentieth Century (2000), pp. 1-20. [extracts]

Charles Webster, ‘Medicine and the Welfare State 1930-1970’ in Roger Cooter and John Pickstone (eds), Medicine in the Twentieth Century (2000), pp. 125-40. [extracts]

Rudolf Klein, ‘The Crises of the Welfare States’ in Roger Cooter and John Pickstone (eds), Medicine in the Twentieth Century (2000), pp. 155-70. [extracts]


Further Readings:

Daniel Fox, Health Policies, Health Economics: The British and American Experiences, 1911-1965 (1986).

Nick Hayes, ‘Did We Really Want a National Health Service? Hospitals, Patients and Public Opinions before 1948’, English Historical Review, 127 (2012), 566-591.

Rudolf Klein, The New Politics of the National Health Service (1995).

George Rosen, A History of Public Health (1986).

Andrew Seaton, ‘Against the 'Sacred Cow' : NHS Opposition and the Fellowship for Freedom in Medicine, 1948–72’, Twentieth Century British History, 26 (2015), 424-449.

Paul Starr, The Social Transformation of American Medicine (1982).

Charles Webster, The National Health Service: A Political History (1998).