Articles

New articles will be added weekly.

The AIDS Crisis in Belfast

by Rebecca Brown, Ulster University Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is an infection which attacks the body’s immune system and, if left untreated, will severely damage the individual’s immune system.[1] In the final stage of the HIV infection, an infected individual will develop Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) making them susceptible to serious infections and rare cancers.[2] …

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Feminist Activism, Rona Fields and the History of Trauma during the Troubles

by Ian Miller, Ulster University In the early years of the Troubles, some Northern Irish doctors began to worry that conflict was causing psychological and emotional problems. Alex Lyons, a Purdysburn Hospital doctor, investigated a period of rioting in West Belfast in August and September 1969, a time of arson, looting and intimidation that helped …

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Working in a Warzone: The Challenges Faced by Medical Staff Working during the Troubles

By Ruth Coon, Queen’s University Belfast The Troubles (1968-1998) created a complex work environment for healthcare staff in Northern Ireland. They experienced challenges to their neutrality and medical ethics, as well as threats and dangers at work. In my research, a number of medical staff who worked at various hospitals across Northern Ireland were interviewed …

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The Thalidomide Tragedy in Belfast

by Hannah Brown and Rebecca Brown, Ulster University The thalidomide tragedy is one of the worst medical scandals in history.[1] Thalidomide was advertised as an extraordinary drug which could be used to treat a plethora of problems including depression, colds, anxiety, insomnia and headaches.[2] Thalidomide was also effective in alleviating morning sickness in pregnant women. …

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Polio and its Survivors in Twentieth-Century Belfast

by Hannah Brown, Ulster University Poliomyelitis merges three Greek words, ‘polio,’ ‘myelo,’ and ‘itis,’ which translates respectively to ‘grey matter’, ‘spinal cord’ and ‘swelling’.[1] Poliomyelitis is often referred to as polio or infantile paralysis. The highly contagious disease is spread faecal-orally and is caused by a wild-type polio virus type 1, 2 or 3.[2] Polio …

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The Therapeutic Revolution in Belfast, 1910s-60s: Medical Utopia or Dystopia?

by Ian Miller, Ulster University Belfast Health Week In June 1933, Ulster Hall hosted an event named Belfast Health Week. The Week was intended to ‘impress upon the general public the social and individual importance of hygiene, emphasizing the positive benefits of health rather than the negative results of disease’. Through films, lectures and exhibits, …

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Shell-Shock in First World War Belfast and its Aftermath

by Michael Robinson, University of Liverpool The conditions of modern warfare calling large numbers of men into action, the tremendous endurance, physical and mental, required, and the widely destructive effect of modern artillery fire will undoubtedly make their influence felt in a future war, and we shall have to deal with a larger percentage of …

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Protecting and Promoting Pupil’s Health in Edwardian Belfast Schools

By Tom Thorpe, Independent In August 1913, Dr H.W. Baillie, Belfast’s Medical Superintendent Officer of Health delivered his report on the city’s public health for the previous year. During 1912, Belfast reported its second lowest death rate ever but he noted that around 650 children had died from the seven ‘zymotic’ (infectious) diseases such as …

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6. Insanity, Poverty and Excessive Tea Drinking in Late-Victorian Belfast

by Ian Miller, Ulster University In 1872, an alarmed lady wrote to the Freeman’s Journal reporting that: Taking shelter in a cottage, near Banbridge, County Down, some time ago, during a shower of rain, and noticing the teapot on the hob, I observed that tea stewed in that way did a great deal of harm. The woman …

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5. Why Did Ulster Patients Travel to Scottish Asylums for Mental Health Care, c.1840-1900?

By Michael Kinsella, Ulster University Scotland’s nineteenth-century chartered asylums had philanthropic roots and developed very differently from the Irish district asylum system. They were not designated as pauper institutions and due to their charitable foundations were profoundly influenced by their relationship with the ‘urban Scottish middle class’.[1] They were also progressive by the standards of …

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4. Belfast District Lunatic Asylum – Moral Treatment, Restraint and Hydrotherapy, 1829 – 1913

By Rebecca Watterson, Ulster University In 1829, the Belfast District Lunatic Asylum opened following the 1821 Lunacy (Ireland) Act which provided the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland with the ability to establish funded district asylums for the lunatic poor.[1] In January 1826, ‘wanted’ adverts were placed in the Belfast Newsletter by surgeon Robert Mcluney seeking a …

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3. Cancer in Victorian Belfast: A Disease of Industrialisation?

by Eugenie Scott, Ulster University Until the mid-nineteenth century, Belfast was a small market town. However, from the 1840s factories and mills sprang up. The growing town soon became known for its linen industry and shipbuilding. At the time, many British doctors blamed industrialisation for the spread of non-infectious diseases including cancer. Often, their writings …

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2. Linen Mills in Nineteenth-Century Belfast: Lichen, Lungs and Loss of Limbs

by Rebecca Watterson, Ulster University Linen’s Rapid Expansion in Belfast Nineteenth century Belfast became known as ‘Linenopolis’.[1] It was linen that drove the rapid population growth of Belfast from 25,000 in 1808 to 70,000 by 1841 and then 385,000 by 1911.[2] By the beginning of the twentieth century, Belfast was the linen capital of the …

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1. Industrial Belfast: The Rise of the Pathogenic City, c.1830-1900

by Ian Miller, Ulster University. In 1841, Belfast’s population was just 75,308. By 1911, this had risen to 386,947. The promise of regular paid work in the city’s industries, and lack of industrialisation elsewhere in Ireland, encouraged migration to the north’s industrial capital. Cotton spinning peaked in the 1820s when around 3,500 people were employed …

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