November 21, 2008
Chris Dooley is a Doctoral Candidate at York University.
Last year, in designing a new course in the history of Canada’s welfare state, I became acutely aware of the extent to which health history, as practised in Canada, is largely divorced from a wider history of twentieth century state formation. This is unfortunate, and I believe that Canadian historians of health and medicine would benefit from a closer attention to politics and political economy, subjects they have largely ceded to political scientists and sociologists. Practitioner history may offer part of the solution. Paying close attention to the experience of practitioners like nurses helps us to discern the institutional logics of health care systems and the bureaucratic and political apparatus that support them. In sum, I think that we need to begin to write a new history of health and medicine in Canada – one that articulates with the history of welfare state formation – and I think that historians of nursing can play an important role in writing it.