chapter  1
16 Pages

Body and city: medical and urban histories of public health

BySally Sheard, Helen Power

Epidemic infectious disease in particular exposes the weaknesses in urban communities, highlights the disparities in income and associated living conditions that accompany urbanisation. Urban public health has been sought—and sometimes achieved—through a myriad of political, social, economic and medical strategies. Marjaana Niemi's essay is a valuable exponent of interdisciplinary studies of urban public health, showing an awareness of the political economy of early twentieth-century public health strategies in an explicitly geographical context. Gerry Kearns uses his essay to make the important point that studies of urban public health must acknowledge the distinctive political cultures both of Whitehall and of individual town halls. Bill Luckin's seminal review 'Death and survival in the city: approaches to the history of disease', was published in the Urban History Yearbook in 1980, yet it contains many provocative suggestions which have still not been fully taken up by either urban or medical historians.