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Title: Health, experts and the politics of knowledge : Britain and Sweden 1900-40
Author: Niemi, Marjaana
Awarding Body: University of Leicester
Current Institution: University of Leicester
Date of Award: 1999
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Early twentieth-century public health campaigns provide a useful means of examining the role that scientific knowledge has played in urban governance. By invoking the authority of science, public health experts and executives could claim that the way in which they analyzed and organized the life of the city was above class antagonisms, gender conflicts, ethnic tensions and the politics of age relations, serving the best interest of the whole community. This study, which compares infant welfare and anti-tuberculosis campaigns in the second cities of Britain and Sweden, Birmingham and Gothenburg, shows how health authorities used 'apolitical' scientific knowledge to regulate their city and to advance political aims. The study examines the role which infant welfare campaigns played in regulating urban family life and family relations. While the Birmingham campaign promoted full-time motherhood, in Gothenburg, where many households were dependent on women's wages and where industries were concerned to employ female labour, the authorities argued that the well-being of infants could be secured by helping poor mothers reconcile paid work with motherhood. Both these campaigns, though reflecting local economic arrangements and social structures, were anchored in 'universal' scientific knowledge. By comparing the anti-tuberculosis campaigns in Birmingham and Gothenburg, this study shows that these campaigns served to justify the central tenets of the municipal housing policies. The way in which tuberculosis was defined legitimated intervention in the homes and intervention or non-intervention in the housing market. The health campaigns enhanced the interests of medical doctors. In Gothenburg, where the majority of doctors worked in the public sector, public health problems were often defined as medical matters which were to be resolved by professionals. The Birmingham authorities, reluctant to damage the interests of independent practitioners, confined their activities to preventive medicine. Finally, the study examines how middle-class women and working -class women and men challenged the authorities' views.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available