Everyday health histories and the making of place: the case of an English coastal town
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During recent years, health geography has focused increasingly on how people's experiences of health and places are interrelated. This has included historical research on a variety of well-known places and remarkable events. In contrast, relatively little attention has been paid to how health and health care can be influential historically to the development, image and identity of 'everyday' and ordinary places. We focus on the case of a small town in Southern England to demonstrate the long and diverse historical connections that exist between health and such places. Using both historical documents and local literature, the paper reviews early invasions and incursions, epidemics of infectious disease, the development of a therapeutic seaside resort, the impacts of the Second World War, and more recent social and economic developments associated with an ageing population. Complex and diverse health-related histories are shown to be interwoven with local and extra-local histories including those of national or international significance. We argue that health histories can be integral to shaping the past and present of places and our broader understandings and interpretations of them. From a disciplinary perspective, we contend that by adopting theoretical perspectives from cultural geography, an enhanced historical geography of health could disentangle these historical strands, tell these important stories and put everyday health histories in their place.
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