The Local and the Global: Liverpool and International Health

Tuesday 9th September, 1.30pm to 3.30pm, Lecture Theatre 1, Sherrington, University of Liverpool

Sponsored by The Wellcome Trust

Book here

By exploring Liverpool’s maritime history the speakers discuss how medicine came to be allied with global imperial expansion through the founding of the Liverpool School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Find out how attempts to improve the health of seamen through public health measures moved on from the post-colonial world to today’s local-global framework.

  • Dr Sally Sheard (Division of Public Health and School of History, University of LIverpool)
    ‘Health at the Gateway: ports, seafarers and the perception of risk in the early twentieth century’

By the 1920s Liverpool was at its economic peak – but this came with a health ‘cost’��. Port health officials coped with massive movements of goods and people, that required a sophisticated approach to risk management. Seafarers in particular were viewed as disease threats because of their long-established association with prostitutes. Yet their actual health issues reflected their working conditions, and poor access to medical services. This paper considers the gap between perceived and real health risks, and their influence on the development of health policies.

  • Dr Sanjoy Bhattacharya (Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine at University College London): ‘Crucial Building Blocks: “Localities” in International and Local Health Programmes’.

The World Health Organization has played an important role in the design and deployment of international and global public health policy since its formal inauguration in 1948. The organisation is a complex one, incorporating a Geneva-based headquarters, as well as several regional offices; this intricate network of offices, departments and advisory groups has been responsible for the application of a variety of policies in a plethora of locales, in association with scientific organisations (like universities and non-governmental think thanks) and national governments (which were composed of complex administrative formations with varying links to civil society groups). Seen from this perspective, a variety of ‘localities’, located in developed, less developed and developing countries proved crucial to the WHO’s global activities – indeed, the agency’s ability to create productive connections between numerous stakeholders was the basis of its greatest successes, and its ability to stoke partnerships across diverse constituencies continues to be the primary basis of its significance in the contemporary world. This presentation aims to use the case studies of the WHO’s involvement in the global malaria and smallpox eradication programmes in the South Asian sub-continent to describe how a variety of ‘localities’ – ranging from European government, scientific and university agencies on the one hand, to South Asian administrative units, NGOs and civil society representatives on the other – were able to determine the shape and working of international and global health policies in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.

  • Professor Anne Hardy (Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine at University College London): ‘Home and Abroad: The Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine’

Books of interest:

M. Gorsky and S. Sheard (eds), Financing British Medicine Since 1750 (2006)
S. Sheard and L. Donaldson, The Nation’s Doctor: the role of the Chief Medical Officer, 1855-1998 (2005)

Sanjoy Bhattacharya, Expunging Variola: The Control and Eradication of Smallpox in India, 1947-1977 (2006)
Sanjoy Bhattacharya, Mark Harrison and Michael Worboys, Fractured States: Smallpox, Public Health and Vaccination Policy in British India, 1800-1947 (2005)
Sanjoy Bhattacharya, Propaganda and Information in Eastern India, 1939-45: A Necessary Weapon of War (2001)


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