European Healthcare before Welfare States is a research project run by the Centre for Health Histories at the University of Huddersfield. Funded by the University Research Fund the project will develop the international elements of the Centre through three inter-linked activities:

A research network of UK, European, North American and Australasian scholars will meet in two focused workshops in 2017 to discuss national and transnational themes in healthcare before welfare states.
We propose to hold one workshop on Hospital Provision in Europe and North America, 1880-1950 and a second on Treating Mental Health before the Welfare State.

A focused pilot project will collect data on health care systems in Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia.

The aim of this element of the project is to identify a primary source base to explore how hospital provision was established, managed and funded in the successor states of East Central Europe (Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary) created in 1918. It will examine these developments from a ground up approach to explore the practical process of building health care provision at a local level. It will seek to locate suitable source material to undertake local case studies of hospital services.

The project will use international comparison across three countries and will open up opportunities to examine healthcare in diverse economic, social and political situations. It will draw on Doyle’s comparative work on Anglo-French hospital services which utilised urban case studies to assess the day-to-day operation of healthcare before welfare states. Healthcare provision in the three nations chosen for this project Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary has received limited attention from historians. Much of the English language work has focused on the activities of the Rockefeller Foundation, between 1918-25, while studies of early national health policy have concentrated on links between eugenics and local services. Local studies of provision remain rare.

We will conduct literature reviews, archival scoping and the collection of some pilot data with the help of three research assistants, Melissa Hibberd, Frank Grombir and Balsz Szelinger. The RAs will conduct an extensive literature review and spend an extended period in their respective countries exploring archival sources, undertaking initial data collection and meeting with potential collaborators and project partners. The research visit will include a period in the capital identifying national records, print sources and medical journals and some time in a provincial centre scoping local archival material such as hospital records, local authority material, newspapers. In the final two months they will write up reports to include assessment of the scope and quality of archival material, the problems and possibilities offered by the source base and the initial pilot data collected. This material will be presented in a plenary workshop involving ten-fifteen academics interested in interwar health care provision in a European context. There will also be a co-authored article on the findings of the project for submission to a major medical history journal.

The project will make a significant contribution to the history of health care provision by opening up local records in East-Central Europe for researchers and by placing hospital development in these countries in a Europe wide context. In particular, we will view these developments from the ground up examining the practical process of building health care provision at a local level. Integrating East Central Europe into the history of European hospitals will challenge existing paradigms based on the relatively wealthy, urban and politically stable states of western Europe that currently dominate the historiography and offer an opportunity to explore the role of health care in national identity formation.

The appointment of 3 visiting fellows on short-term placements in Huddersfield to develop projects, co-write for international journals and prepare funding bids. Opportunities may exist for reciprocal or complementary visits.

The visiting professors will: work on their own research, supported by colleagues in the Centre for Health Histories; present their research at Huddersfield and other institutions; provide advice and mentoring to staff and students associated with the Centre, especially around applying for non-UK funding, research strategies and environments in Europe and North America, opportunities for collaboration and reciprocal visiting roles; develop joint funding bids with colleagues in the Centre; co-author articles/co-edit books or special issues with Centre staff and students.

We are looking forward to developing this project, mounting the workshops and working with our project partners, including Professor Petr Svobodny of Charles University.

Image credit:

The Masaryk Hospital in Ústí nad Labem constructed during the 1930s was deemed to be one of the top healthcare establishments in interwar Czechoslovakia.