Contagious Communities: Medicine, Migration, and the NHS in Post War Britain

Contagious Communities: Medicine, Migration, and the NHS in Post War Britain

by Roberta Bivins


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Contagious Communities: Medicine, Migration, and the NHS in Post War Britain by Roberta Bivins

It was only a coincidence that the NHS and the Empire Windrush (a ship carrying 492 migrants from Britain's West Indian colonies) arrived together. On 22 June 1948, as the ship's passengers disembarked, frantic preparations were already underway for 5 July, the Appointed Day when the nation's new National Health Service would first open its doors. The relationship between immigration and the NHS rapidly attained - and has enduringly retained - notable political and cultural significance.

Both the Appointed Day and the post-war arrival of colonial and Commonwealth immigrants heralded transformative change. Together, they reshaped daily life in Britain and notions of 'Britishness' alike. Yet the reciprocal impacts of post-war immigration and medicine in post-war Britain have yet to be explored. Contagious Communities casts new light on a period which is beginning to attract significant historical interest. Roberta Bivins draws attention to the importance - but also the limitations - of medical knowledge, approaches, and professionals in mediating post-war British responses to race, ethnicity, and the emergence of new and distinctive ethnic communities. By presenting a wealth of newly available or previously ignored archival evidence, she interrogates and re-balances the political history of Britain's response to New Commonwealth immigration. Contagious Communities uses a set of linked case-studies to map the persistence of 'race' in British culture and medicine alike; the limits of belonging in a multi-ethnic welfare state; and the emergence of new and resolutely 'unimagined' communities of patients, researchers, clinicians, policy-makers, and citizens within the medical state and its global contact zones.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780198725282
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publication date: 11/24/2015
Pages: 400
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Roberta Bivins (BA Columbia; PhD MIT) is a historian of medicine at the University of Warwick. Her early research examined the cross-cultural transmission of medical expertise, particularly in relation to global and alternative medicine. Since 2004, funded by the Wellcome Trust, she has studied the impacts of immigration and ethnicity on postwar British health, medical research, and practice. Her new research examines the cultural history and influence of the British National Health Service since 1948. Bivins also convenes the trans-sector and trans-disciplinary IDEA Collaboration ( for improving the delivery of ethnically aware research, practice, and policies in healthcare.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Medicine, Migration, and the Afterimage of Empire
Part I: Tuberculosis in Black and White: Medicine, Migration, and Race in 'Open Door' Britain
1. Suspicions and 'Susceptibility': The Tuberculous Migrant, 1948-1955
2. Contained but not Controlled: Public Discontents, International Implications
Part II: 'At Once a Peril to the Population': Immigration, Identity, and 'Control'
3. Smallpox, 'Social Threats', and Citizenship, 1961-6
4. 'Slummy Foreign germs': Medical 'Control' and 'Race Relations', 1962-1971
Part III: Chronically Ethnic: The Limits of Integration in the Molecular Age
5. Ethnicity, Activism and 'Race Relations': From 'Asian Rickets' to Asian Resistance, 1963-1983
6. Genetically Ethnic? Genes, 'Race', and Health in Thatcher's Britain
Conclusion: Contagious Communities and Imperial Afterimages

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