The diversity of medical history materials belonging to the Scottish Catholic Archives and the ways in which they will enhance and bring a better understanding of the Catholic Church’s involvement in health and medical care are pivotal in measuring the importance of the project collections in the context of the study of the history of medicine.
The collections allow an increased knowledge and understanding of health and medical care from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries. Eighteenth and nineteenth century manuscripts cover topics such as gynaecological case histories and essays on optics; medical recipes compiled in 1718; a dissertation of the Cholera Morbus, by Duncan Carmichael, Licentiate of the Royal College of Surgeons, Edinburgh. Buckie, 1846 and of Dysentry of India; Dr William MacDonnell provides a hospital register from the 91st Regiment of Foot giving case notes for soldiers from the 1820s. The Blairs and Preshome Letter collections consist of around 80,000 items from 1627 to 1887, and throughout the collection are matters relating to medical history with the period around 1832 containing correspondence relating to cholera in various Scottish towns, particularly Wick and Inverness. A number of letters from c1784-1813 contain references to Irish students having to leave the continent and travel to Edinburgh to attend the medical school. It is anticipated that further references to medical history and/or healthcare will be found in the collections through close examination. This period also allows the archives of the Province of the Helpers of the Holy Souls to be catalogued and made available to researchers in medical history. The Order established itself in London in 1873, and had convents in London, South Shields, Portsmouth, Edinburgh, Lanarkshire and Jersey since then. This female religious order was involved in the visiting of the sick and poor as well as giving religious instruction to children and adults. This collection allows us to comprehend better the role of religious organisations in providing health care and support in the pre and post NHS periods.
Twentieth century collections allow exploration of the relationships between health professionals and the Church: through organisations such as the Catholic Nurses Guild, the Guild of St Luke (Catholic doctors), Lourdes Medical Association and secular organisations such as the British Pharmaceutical Conference and International Mobile Medical Trust; health research areas include the British Empire Cancer Campaign, National Kidney Research Fund, St Francis Leprosy Guild and the National Association fo the Prevention of Tuberculosis; support for the sick and elderly are identified through the Association of Catholic Deaf of GB and Ireland, Catholic Union of the Sick; Hospitalite de Notre Dame des Lourdes, Multiple Sclerosis Society, Scottish Spina Bifida Association, Marie Curie Cancer Care, Strathcarron Hospice and the St Joseph Mission for the Deaf and Dumb; addiction, ethics and social responsibility are encountered through Support for Addiction for Families in Edinburgh, Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund (SCIAF), Clinical Theology and Pro-Life movements. Material relating to AIDS and HIV in Africa is found particularly in the SCIAF archives and will allow a better understanding of the attitudes of the Church in the twentieth century.
The establishment of the National Health Service and management of Catholic hospitals and the establishment and representation of the Church through hospital chaplaincies and local health boards provide a valuable insight into the development of the service. Mid-twentieth century social services through the child guidance psychiatric service of the Archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh are covered with individual case notes extant.
Spanning the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the records of the Society of St Vincent de Paul provide evidence of a mixed economy of health care providers, with private funding for medical care being made available by this charitable organisation.