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Title: Imperial sisters : disease, conflict, and nursing in the British Empire, 1880-1914
Author: Fletcher, Angharad
ISNI:       0000 0004 9350 6341
Awarding Body: King's College London
Current Institution: King's College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2020
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This thesis is the first scholarly attempt to foreground nurses in the history of the third plague pandemic. While nurses were often praised for their work, they are almost entirely absent from the plague literature, and their experiences have been obscured by male-centric narratives in subsequent plague historiography. The thesis analyses site-specific responses to the plague in two colonial port-cities, Hong Kong and Cape Town, to explore differences and commonalities in colonial nursing regimes. Its chronological focus is principally on the period between 1894, when the first cases of plague were reported in Hong Kong, and 1914, when World War One created new opportunities for overseas employment. However, the thesis also examines the development of nursing from 1880 in order to track shifts in nursing education, professional objectives, and imperial networks. The thesis addresses a number of questions: To what extent did the plague pandemic function as a catalyst for change, and as a justification for the institutional consolidation and expansion of nursing? How was a nursing ideal constructed and promoted in metropolitan publications? How was this ideal shaped by imperial peripheries? In what ways was this ideal, and the expectations that underpinned it, challenged by frontline plague work? Chapter One introduces the theoretical framework and identifies key themes of the thesis. It offers a brief proto-history of international nursing, emphasising the importance of biographical "snapshots" in creating an alternative to institutional nursing accounts. It also discusses the unique methodological challenges posed by tracing women's life-stories across the colonial archives. Chapter Two, 'Nursing and the "Terrors" of Plague – Hong Kong, 1894,' begins at the moment when the third plague pandemic drew international attention. It investigates the impact of the crisis on the colony's improvised medical infrastructure and, in particular, evaluates the influence of plague on the evolution of nursing, arguing that the nursing in the crown colony was shaped by unique social, political, and financial concerns. Chapter Three, 'Improvising Measures – Cape Town, 1901,' charts the arrival of plague in South Africa, highlighting the extremity of plague nursing in remote, isolated locations. On the frontline, metropolitan ideals were challenged and nurses were not only vulnerable to infection and death – in addition to other unforeseen dangers that included sexual assault, addition and suicide – they were also liable to moral censuring. Chapter Four, 'London – Making the Ideal Nurse,' considers the changes in metropolitan nursing education that facilitated the recruitment of nurses in the colonies. In this context, the chapter explores the role of a burgeoning nursing literature in the promotion of the ideal nurse. Chapter Five concludes by summarising the case for why nursing, and the life-stories of nurses, need to be reinstated in plague histories. It also outlines the contribution of the thesis to opening up new avenues for future research in colonial and imperial nursing histories.
Supervisor: Rafferty, Anne Marie Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available