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School of History, Philosophy and Culture
Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
British social history from the eighteenth century to the present; social history of medicine and the history of African medicine.
Professor Anne Digby's research ranges widely over the landscape of British social history from the eighteenth to twentieth centuries: from schooling and society to the New Poor Law, agrarian society in the nineteenth century to welfare policy in the twentieth. However, her primary current interest is in the social history of medicine.
Areas of research include:
Her main research interest is the medical history of southern Africa. She has been particularly interested in medical pluralism and interactions between western and indigenous medicine in South Africa. Her book, Diversity and Division in Medicine: Health Care in South Africa from the 1800s,was published in 2006 by Peter Lang. Professor Digby has recently been working with historians from the University of Cape Town on the history of Groote Schuur Hospital, funded by a Wellcome Trust International Collaborative Award. The resulting book, At the Heart of Healing in Cape Town: Groote Schuur Hospital, 1938-2008 (Johannesburg, Jacana), jointly authored with Howard Phillips, and with the assistance of Harriet Deacon and Kirsten Thomson, will be published in November 2008. Currently, she is beginning to work on the structural imbalances in South African medicine and how and why these developed historically.Qustions to be examined include: Why were so many public and private resources concentrated in urban areas ? How successfully did agencies such as mission hospitals, health centres and clinics, outreach from institutions (including some collaboration with healers), and the activities of certain members of the medical and nursing professions - more especially their black members - modify this in order to provide services for rural inhabitants?
This book offers an innovative engagement with the diverse histories of colonial and indigenous medicines. Engagement with different kinds of colonialism and varied indigenous socio-political cultures has led to a wide range of approaches and increasingly distinct traditions of historical writing about colonial and indigenous modes of healing have emerged in the various regions formerly ruled by different colonial powers. The volume offers a much-needed opportunity to explore new conceptual perspectives and encourages critical reflection on how scholars' research specialisms have influenced their approaches to the history of medicine and healing. The book includes contributions on different geographical regions in Asia, Africa and the Americas and within the varied contexts of Chinese, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Dutch and British colonialisms. It deals with issues such as internal colonialism, the plural history of objects, transregional circulation and entanglement, and the historicisation of medical historiography. The chapters in the volume explore the scope for conceptual interaction between authors from diverse disciplines and different regions, highlighting the synergies and thematic commonalities as well as differences and divergences.
Groote Schuur Hospital is a Landmark in Cape Town, a medical institution with an international reputation, created mainly by the first heart transplant which took place there in 1967. This book takes a new look at the history of the hospital, examining the experiences of staff and patients, clinical practice and research, and the social and political environment in which the hospital has operated. Authoritative in its analysis and lively in its writing, this work establishes the rich contribution and significance of this important South African institution.
This article discusses an under-researched group and provides an analytical overview of the comparative experiences of African, Indian and Coloured doctors at South African universities during the apartheid era. It probes diversity of experience in training and practice as well as gendered differentiation amongst black students before going on to discuss the careers and political activism of black doctors as well as the impact of recent transformational change on their position. It briefly assesses how singular this South African experience was.
The progressive recommendations of the National Health Service Commission of 1942–1944 have attracted historical attention but the three and a half million words of evidence given to it have hardly done so. This article reviews this testimony, which gave unrivalled detail on the fragmented state of South Africa's healthcare structures and on the variety of its personnel. In addition it supplied insights into social attitudes and prejudices related to health and medicine in a racially segregated society on the eve of apartheid. The paper analyses the problems that this ground-breaking commission encountered, and explores whether there were ‘lions in the way’ of its reforms, as was suggested in an encounter with an influential witness. The article probes whether there was a tangential relationship between the evidence, and the commission's conclusions on new health centres as the basis of a radical new national health system. In evaluating whether these reforms were stultified by the election of an apartheid government in 1948 (as others have argued), it concludes that the Gluckman recommendations had already failed before this because they ignored political and professional interest groups. The article also assesses reasons for the contrast between the commission's grandiose recommendations and its modest effects.
The article discusses the aspirations and achievements of 10 Bantustan departments of health in trying to develop integrated district healthcare for their African populations from the 1970s to 1990s. These aimed to prioritise preventive and promotive rather than curative medicine, and to decentralise healthcare in an expanding network of clinics. The departments were both helped and hindered in their innovative work by their relationship with South Africa which, whilst aiding them with resources, at the same time caused growing problems because of a migrant labour system in which many people worked in South Africa but were forced to reside in the Bantustans. In addition the article suggests that, within a wider South African context, Bantustan healthcare provided a hidden link between the progressive but abortive proposals for a national health service proposed in the Gluckman Report (1944) and attempts by the democratic government half a century later to provide a district system of primary healthcare.
This article examines a significant case study of nutrition-based health care in South Africa through social medicine and medical pluralism. Social medicine provided continuity between idealistic hopes of establishing a multiracial national health service during the 1940s, and its ‘revival’ after the democratic transition of 1994. It examines factors that made it possible to pursue progressive health care practice within the reactionary, apartheid period. This case study of a non-governmental organisation, the Valley Trust, draws on abundant documentation and oral histories. These facilitate a discussion of interaction of social conditions with therapeutic practice, and of the long-term evolution of medical pluralism.
Only within the past few decades has a determined assault been made on this, the innermost sanctum of the body-, commented the heart surgeon, Christiaan Barnard, together with the head of the cardiac clinic, Velva Schrire, at Groote Schuur Hospital. The -œdetermined assault- on the world's first heart transplant patient, Louis Washkansky, meant that the body of the Cape Town hospital in which he lay was also to change profoundly. This operation, on Dec 3, 1967, catapulted Groote Schuur Hospital into an age of modern medical specialism.
The article surveys half a century of historical writing on South African medicine, which is defined widely to include discussion of health care professions, public health, hospitals and asylums, and indigenous medicine as well as the cross-overs and hybridisation between biomedicine and indigenous medicine. A rapidly growing historiography has been influenced both by general literature in the history of medicine as well as by the more specific context of South Africa. Here the colonial and post-colonial pasts shape the present to an unusual extent and the legacy both of apartheid and of an ongoing democratic transformation impact on the historian's choice of subject.