European healthcare

Beauty and the Hospital in History: Call for Papers

International Network for the History of Hospitals
Malta, 6–8 April 2017
Hosted by the Mediterranean Institute at the University of Malta, and the University of Warwick

INHH pics


Beauty, and its perceived absence or loss, has been a part of hospital experiences, therapies, and
planning throughout history. This conference aims to shed new light onto the history of beauty and
health by exploring the subjective concepts of beauty, ‘normality’, and their opposites within and
around the hospital.
This eleventh INHH conference will consider the relationship between beauty and the hospital in
history through an examination of five key themes: (1) the arts and the hospital; (2) landscape and
environment; (3) restoring beauty; (4) patient and staff experiences; and (5) beauty and the senses.
Below are more details about the themes the conference will address, along with related questions.
These themes and questions are by no means exhaustive, however, and we encourage the submission
of abstracts that discuss other aspects of beauty and the hospital in history in innovative ways.

Key Themes and Questions to be Explored:

1. The Arts and the Hospital:

  • How has the beauty of the arts been perceived to affect encounters within the hospital,
    been promoted by hospital patrons, or been used as a healing therapy in the hospital?

    •  Examples: Music, painting/s, festivities, crafts, creativity, architecture

2. Landscape and Environment:

  • How has the beauty of a landscape or environment — or its absence — shaped the choice
    of location for hospitals, and why?

    • Example: A medieval or colonial leprosy hospital situated in a beautiful landscape
      for its therapeutic value
      o Example: Asylums, isolation hospitals, or prison hospitals intentionally located in
      marginal, inaccessible or ‘ugly’ spaces, both urban and rural, and the consequences
      this was perceived to have on the health of patients
  • How have landscape and environment been adapted to affect hospital therapies and

    • Example: Hospital gardens
  • How did ancient ideas about the influence of environmental conditions upon health
    affect hospital care in the medieval and early modern periods?

3. Restoring Beauty:

  • Who decides what is beautiful or aesthetic, and whether and how that beauty should be
    restored? What strategies have been used in hospitals to restore or enhance that beauty,
    be it physical, mental, or emotional?

    • Example: Cosmetic surgery, prosthetics
    • Example: Psychotherapy to restore the perceived beauty of the mind
  • What happens when beauty or health cannot be fully restored? How have such
    therapies been depicted?

    • Example: Palliative care aimed at lessening suffering or alleviating the effects of
      ‘ugliness’; depictions of such care in before and after photographs, textbooks, and
      publicity material

4. Patient and Staff Experiences:

  • How have patients and staff experienced beauty or ugliness in hospitals? How and why
    has their access to beauty been encouraged or restricted?

    • Example: Hospital gardens for the use of patients only
    • Example: The isolation of patients in ‘ugly’ spaces as punishment
    • Example: The most beautiful spaces in a hospital compound restricted for the
      accommodation of European or white staff and patients
  • How was daily life in the hospital informed by the desire to create a beautiful order
    structuring the resident community?

    • Example: Ordinances and regulations inspired by religious or imperial precepts that
      guided daily life in residential hospitals

5. Beauty and the Senses:

  • How can we understand beauty — or its perceived absence — through the senses of
    smell, touch, sight, taste, and hearing? How has the hospital been a place for the care,
    enhancement, or experience of the beauty of these senses?

    • Example: Disgust surrounding ugly smells in hospitals; strategies to silence or
      shroud unsightly patients and practices
    • Example: The preferential hospitalisation of patients considered damaged in terms
      of their senses, e.g. the predominance of in-patients with a loss of nerve sensation
      in their hands and feet in colonial leprosy settlements

The Advisory Board of the INHH, as organisers of this conference, wish to invite proposals for 20
minute papers which address the conference theme. Potential contributors are asked to bear in mind
that engagement with the theme of beauty and the hospital will be a key criterion in determining
which papers are accepted onto the programme.

Abstracts should be a maximum of 300 words in length, in English and accompanied by a brief self
biography of no more than 200 words. Proposals should be sent to by
15 May 2016. As with previous INHH conferences, it is intended that an edited volume of the
conference papers will be published. Submissions are particularly encouraged from researchers who
have not previously given a paper at an INHH conference.

Upon provision of full receipts, we hope to be able to support attendance at this conference,
particularly for postgraduates and early career researchers. Speakers will be asked to make use of
alternative sources of funding where these are available.

Any queries may be directed to


Crossing Boundaries: The History of First Aid in Britain and France, 1909-1989



Dr Rosemary Wall, Lecturer in Global History, Department of History, University of Hull, has been awarded an Arts and Humanities Research Council Early-Career Grant of £200,000, with co-investigator and mentor, Professor Barry Doyle, Centre for Health Histories, University of Huddersfield.

First aid is a broad term encompassing activities from applying a sticking plaster, to preparing for and managing the effects of war. In this new study Wall and Doyle will focus on the initial treatment of minor injuries and techniques for basic life support undertaken by people other than recognized medical professionals. The project begins in 1909, when Voluntary Aid Detachments (including auxiliary nurses) were established by the British Red Cross, and ends by examining the influence of the Cold War on our knowledge of first aid. A major focus for the research will be the first aid activity and the diffusion of first aid knowledge conducted by the British Red Cross and other organisations such as St John’s Ambulance.

They will test the typicality of the British experience by examining of the development of first aid in France. French healthcare and voluntary associations developed in different ways to those in England. There has, for example, been a more prominent, and controversial, role for religious organisations, a greater level of state intervention in the oversight of first aid providers and a set of priorities strongly influenced by the experience of war and invasion. Moreover, the centrality of contributory insurance and the freedom of doctors from state employment may have shaped the continuing role of first aid within the French system.

Wall and Doyle’s project will move beyond professional, institutional care to focus on the history of the personal, voluntary and communitarian forms of healthcare generally known as first aid. They feel that an understanding of the trajectory of non-institutional treatment across the twentieth century, and in particular the effect of freely available universal health provision on the willingness of the public to self-treat minor injuries, can help to illuminate the boundaries of state provision, individual responsibility and voluntary action in the era of welfare states. Moreover, tracing the fate of first aid provides an opportunity to inform responses to the current crisis in the British National Health Service, especially recent heavy demands on GP surgeries and accident and emergency departments.

The grant begins on 1 March 2016 and runs to 31 August 2018. Wall and Doyle will shortly be recruiting a post-doctoral researcher to assist with the project, who will particularly focus on the research which will be undertaken in France and on oral history. As well as writing publications, the team will be working on a variety of policy and public engagement activities.

Story originally published on

European Healthcare before Welfare States


The ‘Hospital for Businessmen’, Prague


The Centre for Health Histories at the University of Huddersfield (formerly the Centre for the History of Public Health and Medicine CHPHM) has been awarded almost £90,000 by the University research Fund for a project designed to enhance the international research and profile of the Centre. The Centre, led by professor Barry Doyle, includes Dr Lindsey Dodd, Dr Rebecca Gill, Dr Rob Ellis, Dr Alex von Lunen, research students Andrew Holroyde and Sarah Taylor and recent appointment as Centre Research Assistant, Dr Steve Taylor.

The project will develop the international elements of the Centre through three inter-linked activities:

1. A research network of UK, European and North American scholars to meet in two focused workshops in 2016 and 2017 to discuss national and transnational themes in healthcare before welfare states.
2. A focused pilot project to collect data on health care systems in Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia to build knowledge in an area with little published research in either local languages or English.
3. The appointment of 3 visiting professors on short term placements in Huddersfield to develop projects, co-write for international journals and prepare funding bids.

Work Package 1
A research network of UK, European, North American and Australasian scholars to meet in two focused workshops in 2016 and 2017 to discuss national and transnational themes in healthcare before welfare states.
We propose to hold one workshop on Hospital Provision in Europe and North America, 1880-1950 and a second on Treating Mental Health before the Welfare State.

Work package 2
A focused pilot project to collect data on health care systems in Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia.

The aim of this element of the project is to identify a primary source base to explore how hospital provision was established, managed and funded in the successor states of East Central Europe (Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary) created in 1918. It will examine these developments from a ground up approach to explore the practical process of building health care provision at a local level. It will seek to locate suitable source material to undertake local case studies of hospital services.

The project will use international comparison across three countries and will open up opportunities to examine healthcare in diverse economic, social and political situations. It will draw on Doyle’s comparative work on Anglo-French hospital services which utilised urban case studies to assess the day-to-day operation of healthcare before welfare states. Healthcare provision in the three nations chosen for this project Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary has received limited attention from historians. Much of the English language work has focused on the activities of the Rockefeller Foundation, between 1918-25, while studies of early national health policy have concentrated on links between eugenics and local services. Local studies of provision remain rare.

We will conduct literature reviews, archival scoping and the collection of some pilot data with the help of research assistants with high-level competence in Czech, Polish and Hungarian respectively. After an initial period reviewing literature and identifying appropriate collections, the RAs will spend up to two months in their respective countries exploring archival sources, undertaking initial data collection and meeting with potential collaborators and project partners. The research visit will include a period in the capital identifying national records, print sources and medical journals and some time in a provincial centre scoping local archival material such as hospital records, local authority material, newspapers. In the final two months they will write up reports to include assessment of the scope and quality of archival material, the problems and possibilities offered by the source base and the initial pilot data collected. This material will be presented in a plenary workshop involving ten-fifteen academics interested in interwar health care provision in a European context. There will also be a co-authored article on the findings of the project for submission to a major medical history journal.

We hope the project will make a significant contribution to the history of health care provision by opening up local records in East-Central Europe for researchers and by placing hospital development in these countries in a Europe wide context. In particular, we will view these developments from the ground up examining the practical process of building health care provision at a local level. Integrating East Central Europe into the history of European hospitals will challenge existing paradigms based on the relatively wealthy, urban and politically stable states of western Europe that currently dominate the historiography and offer an opportunity to explore the role of health care in national identity formation.

Work Package 3
The appointment of 3 visiting professors on short-term placements in Huddersfield to develop projects, co-write for international journals and prepare funding bids. Opportunities may exist for reciprocal or complementary visits.

The visiting professors will: work on their own research, supported by colleagues in the Centre for Health Histories; present their research at Huddersfield and other institutions; provide advice and mentoring to staff and students associated with the Centre, especially around applying for non-UK funding, research strategies and environments in Europe and North America, opportunities for collaboration and reciprocal visiting roles; develop joint funding bids with colleagues in the Centre; co-author articles/co-edit books or special issues with Centre staff and students.

We are looking forward to developing this project, mounting the workshops and working with our project partners, including Professor Petr Svobodny of Charles University. It is intended to set up a web presence for the European Healthcare before Welfare States Network, with a blog and to explore both academic and non-academic outputs including information for governments and think tanks across. Europe.