Posters, protests, and prescriptions

Cultural histories of the National Health Service in Britain

Edited by Jennifer Crane and Jane Hand

Posters, protests, and prescriptions


  • Hardcover

Book Information

  • Format: eBook
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-6494-0
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Published Date: June 2022
  • BIC Category: Humanities / Social & cultural history, Medicine / History of medicine, History, Modern History, Social Policy, History of Medicine, History of medicine, HISTORY / Modern / 20th Century, MEDICAL / History, HISTORY / Europe / Great Britain / 20th Century, Humanities / Postwar 20th century history, from c 1945 to c 2000, Humanities / British & Irish history
  • Series: Social Histories of Medicine


The National Health Service has provided Britain's healthcare since 1948. This institution has been the subject of tense political debate since its inception and has undergone a number of complex reforms and restructures. But the meanings of the NHS are not only - or even primarily - lived out in politics. Nearly every Briton comes into contact with the NHS - from cradle to grave - and this system of healthcare shapes society, culture and everyday life. This book charts these multiple meanings, looking at the NHS as a site of work, activism and consumerism, as a space and in cultural representations. Looking in these ways, the book shows how and why the NHS has become a symbol of Britishness and an object of fierce protectiveness, even love, today.


'This is the first book to address the NHS using a cultural studies framework. It produces rich and complex evidence of change over time across popular attachments and social meanings and attitudes, while demonstrating the value of new approaches to visual and material sources.'
Stephanie Snow, Professor of Health, History and Policy, University of Manchester


Introduction - Jennifer Crane and Jane Hand
Part I: Work
1 The making of 'NHS staff' as a worker identity, 1948-85 - Jack Saunders
2 Sick notes are a waste of time: doctors' labour and medical certification at the birth of the NHS - Gareth Millward
Part II: Activism
3 'Loving' the NHS: social surveys and activist feelings - Jennifer Crane
4 The everyday work of hospital campaigns: public knowledge and activism in the UK's National Health Services - Ellen Stewart, Kathy Dodworth and Angelo Ercia
Part III: Consumerism
5 Consuming health? Health education and the British public in the 1980s - Alex Mold
6 Customers who don't buy anything!: the introduction of free dispensing at Boots the Chemists - Katey Logan
Part IV: Space
7 The cultural significance of space and place in the NHS - Angela Whitecross
8 'Bright-while-you-wait'? Waiting rooms and the National Health Service, c. 1948-58 - Martin D. Moore
Part V: Representation
9 Representation of the NHS in the arts and popular culture - Mathew Thomson
10 'If it hadn't been for the doctor, I think I would have killed myself': ensuring adolescent knowledge and access to healthcare in the age of Gillick - Hannah Elizabeth
Part VI: International
11 'A spawning of the nether pit'? Welfare, warfare and American visions of Britain's National Health Service, 1948-58 - Roberta Bivins
Epilogue: 'I'm afraid [,] there's no NHS' - Sally Sheard


Jennifer Crane is a Wellcome Trust Research Fellow in History at the University of Oxford and worked as a Public Engagement Research Fellow on the Cultural History of the NHS project at the University of Warwick

Jane Hand worked as a Research Fellow on the Cultural History of the NHS project at the University of Warwick

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