Lecture Details and Reviews

Looking after the Masses: Health-Care and Housing in Early 20th Century Berkshire

4th October, 2016 Margaret Simons
By the end of the 19th century, the health of the masses was inextricably linked to the provision of sound and sanitary housing the building of which had, during the last quarter of the 19th century, come under increasing legislative control and local authority regulation. In this paper we will reflect on this legacy consider housing tenure, type and provision in a climate of increasing accountability and follow the impact of the developments that were wrought by World War One. Although by the turn of the twentieth century there had been great leaps forward in bacteriology and the understanding of the spread of disease, the healthcare system was still largely embryonic. Hospitals, like the Royal Berkshire, were voluntary which meant they were entirely self-funded relying on philanthropy, donations, collections and subscriptions to treat the patients that came through its doors. The services of a doctor were expensive so proprietary medicines and the pharmacist was often the first port of call for the majority of people. Once again we will see that war was the catalyst for change not only in the advancement of medical science, but in the creation of the Ministry of Health which was to have implications for both health and housing.

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