Routledge Handbook on the Global History of Nursing

The chapters in this book vary in the depth, nature and quality of historical research they represent, but all are interesting and worth reading. Some focus on particular methods and others focus on various historical topics.

My favourite chapters were Long’s – Nurses and nursing in literary and cultural studies; Cole’s – Engendering health: pronatalist politics and the history of nursing and midwifery in colonial Senegal, 1914-1967; Nolte’s – Protestant nursing care in Germany in the 19th century: concepts and social practice; and Wall and Rafferty’s – Nursing and the ‘hearts and minds’ campaign, 1948-58: the Malayan emergency.

However, I found some of the book’s presentation frustrating. First, the title and content don’t match. It isn’t actually a handbook, either by being a manual on how to do global nursing history, or by offering a comprehensive coverage of the subject. It is more a ‘reader in global nursing history’. Second, the rationale for the order of contents is unclear. For example, there are only two chapters in part 1, one about colonial settings and the other about war, while both part 2 and part 3 contain chapters on those two subjects. My third criticism relates to referencing. With the exception of Vuic’s and Cole’s chapters, bibliographies are not provided, and only Cole’s is divided into primary and secondary sources. It is difficult for the reader to find a particular reference among the notes at a chapter’s end, or to evaluate the soundness of scholarship based on use of primary versus secondary source material.

Despite these criticisms, I would recommend this book to readers interested in either historical research or global nursing history – it offers something for both.

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