Growing old in Oxford 1930-1960
This thesis explores how old people in Oxford were cared for between 1930 and 1960,
before and after the inception of the welfare state. Its purpose is to analyse how some
families and professionals responded to the transition from the poor law to the welfare
state, and examine any changes in this process. Admission to a state institution was
usual for old people who were without financial and social resources. In Oxford the
Cowley Road Hospital, originally built as a workhouse in the nineteenth century
provided this treatment over this period of time.
The thesis investigates the relationship of this institution to the broader community in
relation to the care of old people. From the 1930s geriatric medicine, a speciality
emerged spearheaded by Dr Marjory Warren, geriatric medicine. Early pioneers of
geriatric medicine, working in state run institutions, were advocating the need for
change in provision for old people, and this study examines their role in this process of
change. Within this group of doctors, Dr Lionel Cosin, an initiator and influencer of
change and policy in post-war care for old people, was appointed to the Cowley Road
Hospital soon after the inception of the welfare state. This thesis, seeks to discover, in
conjunction with the changes arising from the introduction of the welfare state, if old
people in Oxford benefited from his position.
By using oral histories as a major source of evidence, alongside documentary sources,
this investigation aims to bring fresh perspectives to the study of the process of ageing.
Within the context of national legislative changes, it discovers how a city responded to
these, and juxtaposes how families cared for their older relatives. Each chapter examines
aspects that contributed to changing provision and attitudes towards old people by
professionals and relatives. Local evidence is compared with national to suggest that the
city was progressive in its care and attitudes towards old people.