Dangerous Liaisons

A Social History of Venereal Disease in Twentieth-Century Scotland


This book explores the role of Venereal Disease in shaping perceptions of sexuality in twentieth-century Scotland, and in defining the response of the Modern State to patterns of sexual behaviour. It examines how civic, medical and political authorities reacted to the ‘Hideous Scourge' in times of peace and war and how far policy was informed by anxieties surrounding social change and public morality as much as by the incidence of disease and developments in medical knowledge. It focuses in particular on the moral assumptions underpinning epidemiological debate, and the various dimensions of stigmatisation and control within VD discourse, including gender, generation and class. This study also highlights the protracted campaign in Scotland for legal controls over those suffering from VD, and the enduring problem, resurrected by the threat of HIV and AIDS, of balancing the demands of public health against those of civil liberties in the regulation of ‘dangerous sexualities'.

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Roger Davidson is Reader in Economic and Social History at the University of Edinburgh. He has published widely on the social history of VD and its role in the regulation of sexuality. He is currently preparing a co-edited volume on Sex, Sin and Suffering: Venereal Disease and European Society since 1870.
"Dangerous Liaisons is an important book, and offers a model for regional studies in general. It is both a valuable contribution to the largely neglected medical history of Scotland, and a systematic, contextualized study of the history of a problem group of diseases. But it also draws attention to the wider historical issues involved in this history in a way that is relevant for future studies of this subject in other countries, cities and communities." - in: History, the Journal of the Historical Association, Vol. 86, No. 284 (October 2001)
"This book meets expectations: it is thorough, solid, and well-researched …" - in: Social History of Science, Vol. 14, No. 3 (2001)
"… balanced and judicious, yet frank and committed …" - in: Medical History, 46 (2) (April 2002)
"…momentous book … well-written…" - in: Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy, Vol. 5, No. 2 (2002)
"…Davidson has put together an interesting book well-illustrating many of the kaleidoscopic changes in medicine in the 20th century not only in Scotland, but throughout the world." - in: Canadian Bulletin of Medical History, Vol. 19, No. 1 (2002), pp. 288-290
"…impressive account…" - in: The Scottish History Review, Vol. LXXXI, 2: No. 212 (Oct. 2002), pp. 292-4
List of Plates

1. Introduction
2. Public Health, Public Morality and VD in Early Twentieth-Century Scotland
3. The Establishment
4. 'The Cinderella Service': Doctors, Patients and Therapies in Interwar Scotland
5. Sin and Suffering: The Moral Agenda of VD Administration, 1918-39
6. Images of Social Hygiene: VD Propaganda in Interwar Scotland
7. Outcomes: The Impact of Public Health Provisions, 1918-39
8. 'A Scourge to be Firmly Gripped': The Campaign for VD Controls in Interwar Scotland
9. Combating 'The Great Evil': VD Policy in the Second World War
10. 'The Price of the Permissive Society': The Incidence and Epidemiology of VD, 1948-80
11. 'A Specialty in Crisis': The Status and Resourcing of Venereology, 1948-80
12. 'Breaking the Chain of Infection': Treatment and Control Strategies, 1948-80

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