A social history of Bad Ems : spa culture and the welfare state in Germany
This thesis is about the spa town of Bad Ems in West Germany - its social and economic development. It analyses the town's rise to fame as a fashionable centre for relaxation and recuperation and the emergence of a 'spa culture' in the nineteenth century. It also studies the impact of the gradual 'democratisation' of cures i.e. how spa towns like Bad Ems changed in this century with the increase in the number of cure-guests funded by the statutory insurance bodies. This inevitably involves an examination of the system of national health provision from the late 19th century and the incorporation of spa treatment into benefit schemes. The subsequent analysis of medical knowledge and opinion, with particular reference to spa remedies and treatment considers both medical practitioners in Bad Ems and the development of the science of balneology over the past one hundred and fifty years. This analysis includes the debates and arguments about the modern cure and the growing concern since the Second World War with the efficiency and effectiveness of social insurance cures. Finally, this study looks at the cure-takers themselves, both in their relationship with the medical profession and their experience of spa life. Because no comprehensive study of Germany's spas has been attempted, this thesis aims to bring together different perspectives adopted by various disciplines. However, given the present state of research, it seemed that the only viable approach would be through a case study which analyses the town of Bad Ems at a grass-root level, though without ignoring the impact of national events and policies in Germany on cure-taking and spa culture. The findings of the research indicate that the introduction of cures as a benefit of national welfare policies ensured the survival of spas as health centres. No less importantly, today a cure is no longer the preserve of a wealthy elite as in the 19th century but available to all Germans. The success of cures in Germany today would also seem to reflect a culturally specific attitude to health and illness which stands in marked contrast to that in this country where spas have declined and where there is little interest in the forms of treatment offered by mineral springs and thermal waters.