Disease, conflict and nursing in the British Empire, 1880–1914
argued that nursing practice, education and policy were established and consolidated in the metropole
before being exported to the colonies by British nurses, and as a consequence, professional nursing developed independently in each of
the colonial outposts. However, cases like that of ‘Nellie’ Gould illustrate that nursing practice was equally constituted on the peripheries, and that a complex network of nursing ideas existed within the
British Empire, fuelled and enhanced by the massmigration of nurses
between various colonial locations.
Ellen Julia Gould (known as
The English System is a history of port health and immigration at a critical moment of transformation at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century. It challenges generally held assumptions that quarantine policies delineated intransigent national borders, and argues instead that the British geo-body was defined as a more fluid construction. A combination of port sanitation and sanitary surveillance, known to contemporaries as the ‘English System,’ was gradually introduced as an alternative to obstructive quarantines at a time of growing international commerce. Yet at the same time escalating anti-alien anxieties sought to restrict the movement of migrants and transmigrants who arrived from the Continent in increasing numbers. With the abolition of quarantine in 1896 the importance of disease categories based on place, which had formed its foundation and which had been adapted for the new ‘English system,’ lessened. However, these categories had not collapsed but were merely transferred. This book examines this crucial transition showing how the classification of ‘foreign’ and ‘domestic’ disease was translated, after the abolition of quarantine and during the period of mass migration, to ’foreign’ and ‘domestic’ bodies – or the immigrant and the native population.
adopted by anti-alien agitators was
not medical but economic, concerned with sweated labour, housing
and the undercutting of wages and prices. Unlike other countries
which received immigrants during this period of massmigration,
Britain did not respond to the arrival of thousands of aliens in the
unsanitary steerage holds of merchant steamships with the same
medical rhetoric of exclusion adopted with particular force in countries
such as the United States. The health condition of immigrants at the
moment of arrival, a powerful image in American anti
primary international port – the socalled ‘emporium of the world’ – is central to the analysis.
In addition, but perhaps more critical to understanding the book’s
general focus on London, are the particular patterns of migration to
and through Britain in the so-called ‘period of massmigration’ from
1880 to 1914. Unlike important Northern ports such as Hull, Newcastle
and Liverpool, London was a ‘true’ immigrant port, in that the majority of migrants who arrived into the metropolis remained in the city.
While immigrant communities did settle in the North and become
the lifeblood not just
of Australia, but of colonies in general. Ships were sources of labour, news, goods and food,
ideas and government orders, but they also induced great anxiety. Most importantly, voyages
were not separate from the social, political, cultural, and environmental contexts through
which they began, passed, and ended. Through the experiences of people who travelled, I see
voyages as assemblages: medical concerns, military priorities, social hierarchy, penal reform,
massmigration, colonial politics, and
was a canny Leeds pipe manufacturer aware of a growing Irish market. The use of this pipe to the point of discard suggests that the user could have been Irish or had links to Ireland and, as such, took steps to assert his distinctive identity by using a pipe marked ‘Dublin’.
Massmigration from Ireland in the mid-to-late nineteenth century as a result of famine, economic instability, and rural evictions brought many Irish people to the industrial centres of England and the United States. Historian of medicine Catharine Coleborne has
respectively.17 This continued to raise the volume of shipping and intensify the magnitude of human movement in all its forms:18 from massmigration, particularly from southern Europe to the Maghreb and the
Levant, to the rapid deployment of colonial troops to all corners of the
region, to the numbers of Muslim pilgrims – markedly from British
India – on their journey to Mecca.19
The increased speed of transport not only intensified human mobility and physical contact, it also accelerated the recurrence and transmission of contagious diseases within the region
-132 Chapter 4.indd 128
Insanity on display: Magistrates, doctors and families, 1840–70
NAI, CSO CRF, Carlow 1865.
Suzuki, Madness at Home, p. 147.
NAI, CSO CRF, Wexford 1854.
Steiner-Scott, ‘“To Bounce a Boot Off Her Now & Then,”’ p. 137.
NAI, CSO CRF, Wexford 1851.
K. Miller and B. D. Boling, ‘“Golden Street, Bitter Tears”: the Irish Image of America
during an Era of MassMigration’, Journal of American Ethnic History, 10: 1/2 (1990/91),
103 NAI, CSO CRF, Carlow 1866.
104 NAI, CSO CRF, Wexford 1866.
intemperance in food or drink, over-fatigue, or perhaps sudden alarm, have destroyed
the resisting power’. 95 The violence of
cholera seemed to reveal the underlying mental and physical state of the person.
Coney’s collapse also makes us rethink our historians’ emphasis
on epidemic cholera using the metaphors of massmigration, military invasion, social crisis,
colonial disorder, Malthusian purging and industrial modernity that fill the pages of
cholera’s literature. 96 Perhaps most
persistently, however, cholera’s commentators
Contextualising colonial and post-colonial nursing
Helen Sweet and Sue Hawkins
Chapters 2 and 3. Using
the British response to a plague epidemic which originated in China
and came to global attention when it hit Hong Kong in 1894, Fletcher
takes a long-term view (1880–1914) and a comparative approach,
arguing that although nursing practice might originate at the centre it
was constituted on the peripheries of the Empire. Thus colonial nursing engendered a complex network of nursing ideas which was fuelled
and expanded by the massmigration of nurses from various locations
within the Empire. Fletcher argues that by using crises, such as a major