Welfare and public health in Belfast and the north of Ireland 1800 -1973

Project Details


Title: Welfare and public health in Belfast and the its region, c.1800-1973
Actual Start Date: 01/10/2012

Layman's description

This is a collaborative research and dissemination project on the welfare and public health history of Belfast and its hinterland, involving three interlinked and co-ordinated case studies. The project will consider the history of poverty, welfare and public health in Belfast between the Act of Union and the restructuring of public health administration in 1973 following the introduction of direct rule in Northern Ireland. The PI, CI (Dr Olwen Purdue) and two RAs will produce a number of collaborative research articles and jointly edit a collection of essays. Collaborators drawn from four other universities and Social Policy at Queen's will be actively involved in workshops and the conference. Impact activities include a project website, exhibition, public workshops and a projected television documentary. Dr Olwen Purdue (CI) will lead the first case-study, 'Whited Sepulchres? Poor relief, public health and the decline of the civic ideal: Belfast c. 1850-1920', which will examine the contradiction between Belfast's public face of civic pride and municipal improvement and the reality of poverty, disease and death that stalked its streets throughout much of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It will provide the first comprehensive analysis of the problems associated with poverty and disease and the effectiveness of public and private responses to these in a city at once characterised by deep cultural and political divisions. The second case-study, led by Dr Sean Lucey, is 'Poverty and public health in Belfast and its hinterland c.1920-1973', which will study the relationship between public health and poverty. When Northern Ireland was established in 1920, it inherited a relatively poor standard of public health and a delicate political balance between Belfast Corporation and the devolved provincial government. This project will examine the 'step by step' agenda of Stormont policy and the reluctant embrace of the welfare state by Belfast policymakers after 1945. A significant reform of public health in 1973 marks the end of the study. Public health policy emerged through many layers including the devolved government of Northern Ireland and the civic and other local government bodies of the Belfast region and was influenced by a variety of stakeholders including religious leaders, medical professionals and employers. The study considers Northern Ireland as the first devolved 'welfare periphery' within the UK, and uses the Belfast region as a case study locus in implementation of policy and patient experience. A PhD project on 'Poverty, poor relief and public health in Belfast and its region 1800-1851’ forms the final case study. This will investigate the specific structures and dynamics of poverty in the north-east of Ireland in the decades between the Union, the Famine, and the Medical Charities Act of 1851. It will focus on the developing town of Belfast, the 'linen triangle' to its south-west and the rural hinterlands of counties Antrim, Down and Armagh. It will evaluate voluntary poor and medical relief structures and the debate on a poor law, and consider the distinctiveness of NE Ulster as a welfare region of both Ireland and the UK.
Effective start/end date01/08/201131/10/2015


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