Anne Digby

Author Biography and Research Interests: 

Prof. Anne Digby’s research ranges widely over the landscape of British social history from the eighteenth to twentieth centuries: from schooling and society to the New Poor Law, agrarian society in the nineteenth century to welfare policy in the twentieth. However, her primary current interest is in the social history of medicine.

Areas of research include:

  • South African medicine;
  • medical markets and healthcare systems;
  • history of British social policy and welfare;
  • history of psychiatry.

Her main research interest is the medical history of southern Africa. She has been particularly interested in medical pluralism and interactions between western and indigenous medicine in South Africa. Her book, Diversity and Division in Medicine: Health Care in South Africa from the 1800s,was published in 2006 by Peter Lang. Professor Digby has recently been working with historians from the University of Cape Town on the history of Groote Schuur Hospital, funded by a Wellcome Trust International Collaborative Award. The resulting book, At the Heart of Healing in Cape Town: Groote Schuur Hospital, 1938-2008 (Johannesburg, Jacana), jointly authored with Howard Phillips, and with the assistance of Harriet Deacon and Kirsten Thomson, will be published in November 2008. Currently, she is beginning to work on the structural imbalances in South African medicine and how and why these developed historically.Qustions to be examined include: Why were so many public and private resources concentrated in urban areas ? How successfully did agencies such as mission hospitals, health centres and clinics, outreach from institutions (including some collaboration with healers), and the activities of certain members of the medical and nursing professions - more especially their black members - modify this in order to provide services for rural inhabitants?


Healthcare in South Africa 1940-1990

Anne Digby

17th March 2009; Oxford Brookes University

Race has been called the South African disease, and in this lecture I shall be discussing two aspects of it as it relates to my recent and forthcoming research on the history of medicine in South Africa. After outlining some general points about the distinctive features of the country, I outline my current project on changing access to public and private healthcare in a segregationist and then apartheid society from the 1940s to 1990s.

  • Digby, Anne, Howard Phillips, with the assistance of Harriet Deacon and Kirsten Thomson. At the Heart of Healing: Groote Schuur Hospital, 1938-2008
  •  “Vision and Vested Interests: national health service reform in South Africa and Britain during the 1940s and beyond.” Social History of Medicine, December 2008.
  •  “The Medical History of South Africa: an Overview.” History Compass, 6, 2008.
  •  “Some Early Black Doctors in South Africa.” South African Medical Journal, 2007.
  •  “Medicine, race and the general good: the career of Thomas N. G. Te Water (1857-1926), South African doctor and medical politician.” Medical History, 1, 2007.
  •  Diversity and Division in Medicine: Health Care in South Africa from the 1800s. Peter Lang, 2006.
  •  with J. Andrews (eds.). Sex and Seclusion, Class and Custody: Perspectives on Gender and Class in the History of British and Irish Psychiatry Rodopi, 2004.



Oxford Brookes University



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