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Cultural histories of the National Health Service in Britain
Editors: and

The National Health Service (NHS) officially ‘opened’ across Britain in 1948. It replaced a patchy system of charity and local providers, and made healthcare free at the point of use. Over the subsequent decades, the NHS was vested with cultural meaning, and even love. By 1992, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer Nigel Lawson declared that the service was ‘the closest thing the English have to a religion’. Yet in 2016, a physician publishing in the British Medical Journal asked whether the service was, in fact, a ‘national religion or national football’, referring to the complex politics of healthcare. Placards, posters, and prescriptions radically illuminates the multiple meanings of the NHS, in public life and culture, over its seventy years of life. The book charts how this institution has been ignored, worshipped, challenged, and seen as under threat throughout its history. It analyses changing cultural representations and patterns of public behaviour that have emerged, and the politics and everyday life of health. By looking at the NHS through the lenses of labour, activism, consumerism, space, and representation, this collection showcases the depth and potential of cultural history. This approach can explain how and why the NHS has become the defining institution of contemporary Britain.

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Claire L. Jones

Jean Baudrillard’s influential sociological work on the structures of consumption makes us reconsider whether any type of consumer has ever had free choice over the commodities they consume.17 The historical medical control over impairment is also, of course, in no small part responsible for the subsequent rise of disability activism and of patient-​activism groups more broadly. By uncovering more about the medical practitioners who defined and aimed to shape disability through prosthetic commodities, the empirically grounded chapters make the case for a scholarly

in Rethinking modern prostheses in Anglo-American commodity cultures, 1820–1939
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Searching for the patient
Anne Hanley
Jessica Meyer

ideas and interventions that were efficacious or expedient. It is only in recent decades that medical mistakes and malpractice – and their impact on the experiences of sick persons – have become the focus of historical study. 13 Increased access to medical treatment also led to greater demands for patient involvement in the provision of care. 14 Although historians see the post-war growth of patient activism and the emergence of

in Patient voices in Britain, 1840–1948