Industry and Labour, Part II Rehabilitation and the Assault on Trauma, 1930s

  • Roger Cooter
Part of the Science, Technology and Medicine in Modern History book series (STMMH)


The fracture issue in interwar Britain was always about more than the most appropriate place for treating broken bones. While the medical profession saw it chiefly in terms of the reorganization of services and intra-professional relations, outside the profession it was increasingly implicated in wider sets of socioeconomic and political concerns. As the economy began to recover and unemployment to lessen, so the idea of rehabilitating injured workers to ‘fitness’ in order to avoid ‘wastage’ gained a purchase in social and economic thought which far transcended that briefly obtained during the Great War and momentarily thereafter. By the early 1940s, rehabilitation was being spoken of as ‘the one fashion which dominates medical thought almost to the exclusion of any rivals’.2 By then the manpower demands of the Second World War had quickened interest,3 but from the mid-1930s rehabilitation was already emerging as an important territory for the elaboration of professional and ideological interests in medicine, much as child health had previously served. Indeed, rehabilitation and child health were historically significant in similar ways, in that both offered a model for the development of medicine which contrasted with the standard model of individual contracts between doctors and patients. Like child health — the organization of orthopaedic care for crippled children in particular — the success of rehabilitation was seen to depend upon the integration of services and different types of health care workers within geographical areas.


Rehabilitation Centre Rehabilitation Service Injured Worker Fracture Clinic Rehabilitation Scheme 
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  1. 3.
    Richard Titmuss, Problems of Social Policy (1950), p. 478: ‘The year 1941 was a year during which... the manpower shortage began to make itself felt and rehabilitation — in a wide sense — became a watchword, the most fashionable word in medicine, covering many ideas and purposes.’ Or, as Reginald Watson-Jones stated in 1944 with regard to rehabilitation: ‘within a few months of the outbreak of this war, ideals became facts. Every detail proposed to the Delevingne Committee was put into practice.’ ‘Resettlement, The End of Workmen’s Compensation’, Lancet, 18 Nov. 1944, p. 666.Google Scholar
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Copyright information

© Roger Cooter 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Roger Cooter
    • 1
  1. 1.Wellcome Unit for the History of MedicineUniversity of ManchesterUK

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