Glasgow’s ‘sick society’?: James Halliday, psychosocial medicine and medical holism in Britain c.1920–48

History of the Human Sciences 25 (5):73-90 (2012)
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Abstract

James Lorimer Halliday pioneered the development of the concept of psychosocial medicine in Britain in the 1930s and 1940s. He worked in Glasgow, first as a public health doctor, and then as part of the corporatist National Health Insurance scheme. Here he learned about links between poverty, the social environment, emotional stress and psychological and physical ill-health, and about statistical tools for making such problems scientifically visible. The intellectual development of his methodologically and epistemologically integrated medicine – a hybrid of biomedical and psychological approaches – was embedded in the context of this practice with its particular medical culture and socio-economic circumstances. Halliday’s ideas are part of the wider, heterogeneous turn towards medical modernism and holism within mainstream medicine in Britain, western Europe and the United States in the inter-war period, and their evolution underlines the varied nature of contemporary anti-reductionist thinking in medicine. It also points to the diversity of the sources of holism and the many routes by which psychological and especially psychosocial discourses about health and illness entered professional and public arenas in Britain in this period.

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