Since George Rosen’s comprehensive
History of Public Health, first published in 1956, there has been no internationally comparative survey of the subject. Over the past three decades or so, however, research in this field has expanded rapidly, especially with regard to the history of disease and social order and public health politics and the state. Most of these studies have been highly scholarly and specialised and often dealing with only one aspect of public health in any one national context. The essays here examine the road history of public health in different national contexts in order to provide a work of comparative reference that could be used as a teaching aid.
The book focuses on whether the construction of a public health system is an inherent characteristic of the managerial function of modern political systems. Thus, each essay traces the steps leading to the growth of health government in various nations, examining the specific conflicts and contradictions which each incurred. As a result the volume highlights the need for further comparative analysis of public health systems as a highly fruitful topic for future study.
Little attention has been paid to the history of the influence of the social sciences upon medical thinking and practice in the twentieth century. The essays in this volume explore the consequences of the interaction between medicine and social science by evaluating its significance for the moral and aterial role of medicine in modern societies. Some of the essays examine the ideas of both clinicians and social scientists who believed that highly technologized medicine could be made more humanistic by understanding the social relations of health and illness. Other authors interrogate the critical assault which social science has made upon medicine as a system of knowledge, organisation and power. The volume discusses, therefore, the relationship between social-scientific knowledge both
of medicine in the twentieth century. Collectively the essays illustrate that the respective power of biology and culture in determining human behaviour and social transition continues to be an unresolved paradox.
The great British reformer Jeremy Bentham wrote that 'the art of legislation is but the art of healing practised upon a large scale'. He added that 'It is the common endeavour of both to relieve men from the miseries of life. But the physician relieves them one by one: the legislator by millions at a time'. Bentham raised the question of the interplay of medicine with politics. It forms an important topic with powerful contemporary overtones. This volume, containing eleven essays plus a lengthy introduction, seeks to explore it historically. It takes a long perspective, covering the last two centuries and also an international viewpoint, examining Britain in detail but also containing contributions dealing with the United States, Germany, Russia and France.