Health and Medicine as “the Rallying Points of Unity:” Physicians, Activism and International Efforts in the Early Cold War
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This thesis is an exploration of different manifestations of the struggle to determine the place of health and medicine in the international diplomatic and institutional landscape during early years of the Cold War. Relying on analysis of archival material and a survey of contemporary medical literature, this thesis makes a contribution to the literatures on international health arrangements, the interplay between domestic and global policy issues, and the evolution of a humanitarian impulse within certain corners of the medical profession. The actors and organizations profiled here grappled with questions related to whether the medical profession could lead the international system to a higher moral plane through the intrinsically apolitical nature of the pursuance of health, or whether medicine and its inherent power relationships could ever escape politics. In their efforts to enshrine health and medicine within the international system, physicians and other health professionals pursued a course that was as pragmatic as any in the idealistic context of the postwar period, but they also demonstrated a philosophy and outlook that fit with the grand visions that dominated plans of the period. As medical professionals looked beyond their borders to address issues with global repercussions, they nonetheless brought their national paradigms, circumstances and preconceptions to their efforts. This thesis therefore casts a lens on the dynamic interplay between national and international efforts to apply the spirit of medicine to concerns ranging from cancer control to the prevention of war. It also explores the manner in which physicians sought to organize themselves on an international basis to exchange valuable expertise about issues affecting their profession domestically.