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Framing Rickets: Diet, Heredity and Environment in Great Britain and France 1860-1930
AuthorUlrich, Alisse M.
AdvisorHildreth, Martha L.
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This thesis will demonstrate how different medical, political and social factors framed the way physicians and researchers diagnosed, examined and treated children with rickets in Great Britain and France from 1860 to 1930. Population anxieties caused by war, a declining birth rate, and a rising infant and child mortality rate, as well as a growing concern over children's health, formed the background for research into the causation and treatment of rickets, in which diet, climate and heredity were considered to be causal factors. These factors were examined by physicians and researchers through two different research methods, clinical medicine and experimental medicine. Physicians and researchers in Great Britain successfully used both methods in the examination of rickets to identify the causation of the disease. In France, physicians and researchers primarily used the clinical approach. Furthermore, their understanding of rickets was characterized by a strong tendency to emphasize heredity. Historiographies on childhood, children's health and welfare, population anxieties, medicine, and rickets itself, support the ideas presented by the primary resources (such as the importance of the clinical approach in both countries, the use of the experimental approach and the emphasis on diet and environment in Great Britain, and the prevalence of the heredity theory in France) by illustrating how the study of rickets addressed concerns about population and children's health. This study contributes to these different threads of historiography by using medical publications, including those based on lectures and clinical case studies, as well as statistical surveys to demonstrate how the disease was framed and the effect this had on the research concerning rickets.