Sickness in the Workhouse: Poor Law Medical Care in Provincial England, 1834-1914 [Hardback]

Alistair Ritch(Author)

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ISBN: 9781580469753 | Published by: University of Rochester Press | Series: Rochester Studies in Medical History | Volume: Volume 48 | Year of Publication: 2019 | 312p, H9 x W6, 40 black and white
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Sickness in the Workhouse

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England's New Poor Law (1834) transformed medical care in ways that have long been overlooked, or denigrated, by historians. Sickness in the Workhouse challenges these assumptions through a close examination of two urban workhouses in the west midlands from the passage of the New Poor Law until the outbreak of World War I.

By closely analyzing the day-to-day practice of workhouse doctors and nurses, author Alistair Ritch questions the idea that medical care was invariably of poor quality and brought little benefit to patients. Medical staff in the workhouses labored under severe restraints and grappled with the immense health issues facing their patients. Sickness in the Workhouse brings to life this hidden group of workhouse staff and highlights their significance within the local health economy. Among other things, as the author notes, workhouses needed to provide medical care for nonpaupers, such as institutional isolation facilities for those with infectious diseases. This groundbreaking book highlights these doctors and nurses in order to illuminate our understanding of this significant yet little understood area of poor law history.

ALISTAIR RITCH was consultant physician in geriatric medicine, City Hospital, Birmingham, and senior clinical lecturer, University of Birmingham, UK, and is currently honorary research fellow, History of Medicine Unit, University of Birmingham, UK.

Table of Contents

List of Tables
Acknowledgments
Introduction: Pauperism and Sickness
From Acute Illness to Chronic Disability
Segregating Fever Patients
Controlling Disorderly Behavior
Day-to-day Doctoring
Medical Therapies
Poor Law Nursing
"Every Care and Kindness": The Standard of Workhouse Medicine
Appendix A: Prevalence of Selected Infectious Diseases in Birmingham Workhouse on the Last Day of the First Week of Each Quarter for the Years 1877-80 and 1894-1911
Appendix B: Medical Relief in Birmingham Workhouse for Selected Weeks, 1851-56
Appendix C: List of Drugs Kept in the Wards of Birmingham Infirmary in 1896
Appendix D: Pauperism Rates and Institutionalization Rates for Birmingham Parish, Wolverhampton Union, and England and Wales, 1840-1911
Bibliography

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