chapter  13
Philanthropy and rheumatism in inter-war Britain
ByDavid Cantor
Pages 21

It is now commonplace to note that social relationships structured by gift-exchange are among the most powerful forces which bind a social group together.1 Gifts and counter-gifts comprise significant instruments of social organization, of power, of bonds of kinship, and of relationships in law. So too, relationships in medicine have been structured by gift-giving, particularly in the context of medical philanthropy. Although historians have analysed twentieth-century British medicine’s relations with charity, they have predominantly focused on individual charities as centres of scientific and medical research and practice, rather than characterizing the more general gift-relations structuring medicine.2 By emphasizing scientific endeavours, they overlook some of the comparisons which can be made with earlier centuries, some of the continuities in gift-giving and medicine. As yet we know little about the interconnections between doctors and donors, what impact charity had on medicine and on the medical profession, what social bonds charity and giftgiving generated among doctors, why donors gave to medical charity, and what they expected in return.