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Coming to Terms with World Health

The League of Nations Health Organisation 1921-1946

Iris Borowy

The League of Nations Health Organisation was the first international health organisation with a broad mandate and global responsibilities. It acted as a technical agency of the League of Nations, an institution designed to safeguard a new world order during the tense interwar period. The work of the Health Organisation had distinct political implications, although ostensibly it was concerned «merely» with health. Until 1946, it addressed a broad spectrum of issues, including public health data, various diseases, biological standardization and the reform of national health systems. The economic depression spurred its focus on social medicine, where it sought to identify minimum standards for living conditions, notably nutrition and housing, defined as essential for healthy lives. Attracting a group of innovative thinkers, the organization laid the groundwork for all following international health work, effective until today.
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Uneasy Encounters

The Politics of Medicine and Health in China 1900-1937

Iris Borowy

Early twentieth century China went through a tumultuous period, marked by the end of an ancient monarchy, political instability and profound cultural upheaval. The medical discourse both reflected and contributed to these transformations. Western medicine arrived in China as part of missionary, foreign imperialist and internal modernization efforts. In various ways it interacted with Chinese practices and belief systems. The contributions in this volume explore important episodes of this multi-faceted process, describing key institutions, personalities and their respective motives and interests. Collectively, the chapters reveal a complex web of interlocking dimensions, which evade simple categorizations of Western or Chinese, exploitive or supportive, traditional or modern.
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Of Medicine and Men

Biographies and Ideas in European Social Medicine between the World Wars

Iris Borowy and Anne Hardy

Social medicine was one of the key health paradigms of the early twentieth century. It perceived public health as a function of social conditions and aimed at improving it through comprehensive, horizontal strategies. Yet, it was no homogeneous or static phenomenon. Depending on time, place and circumstances, it took different, sometimes ideologically contradictory forms. This volume portrays leading medical experts from seven European countries. Their juxtaposition reveals a network of international interaction and shows how different people coped with the crises of the time in different ways, sometimes as part of the scientific mainstream, sometimes as opposition under attack, sometimes in exile. Their biographies reflect an ambivalent interplay of biomedicine, politics and social theory.
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Facing Illness in Troubled Times

Health in Europe in the Interwar Years, 1918-1939

Iris Borowy and Wolf D. Gruner

Health was a central theme in interwar Europe. The trauma of the First World War, political turmoil and economic crisis placed special demands on public health. Governments engaged to an unprecedented degree in social policy, establishing new sanitary institutions and structures. New scientific doctrines helped spread new ideas. In the process, health gained many functions: It spurred nation-building. It served to integrate and exclude people, define borders and forge identities. Health played a crucial role in the evolving political and social order of interwar Europe. But how healthy were the people really? How did their health respond to policies, and how did policies respond to their health? In this study fourteen scholars address key aspects of the issue.