Map of the South Wales Coalfield, Medical Survey

X-rays don’t tell lies (McGuire, 2019)

The British Medical Research Council’s medical surveys of the South Wales collieries represent a key conflict between standardization and individuals’ personal experience of health.

In a paper recently published in The British Journal for the History of Science , Life of Breath historian Dr Coreen McGuire explores how the mining industry in Britain was subject to recurrent disputes about the risk to miners’ lungs from coal dust. Examination of the MRC’s use of spirometry in their investigation of pneumoconiosis (miner’s lung) from 1936 to 1945 sheds light on this conflict and illuminates the politics inherent in attempts to quantify disability and categorize standards of health. As well as making an epistemological argument about how health experience is affected by measurement technologies, this article has also highlighted how such technology interacts with welfare provision.

Read the full article here:

McGuire, C (2019), ‘X-rays don’t tell lies’: the Medical Research Council and the measurement of respiratory disability, 1936–1945. The British Journal for the History of Science, 1-19. doi:10.1017/S0007087419000232

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