There’s an excellent article called ‘Homelessness and Medical Research in Wartime London‘ by David Saunders on the History Workshop website. He’s a PhD student at the Centre of the History of the Emotions (a newish historical ‘turn’ that I find fascinating) at Queen Mary University in London.
During the war, pacifist and conscientious objector Bernard Nicholls established ‘Arch 176’, an air-raid shelter for rough sleepers, alcoholics and ‘misfits’ who were not made welcome, and did not want to go to, other conventional air-raid shelters. The rough sleepers, who were often infested with lice, came to the attention of Patrick Alfred Buxton, Director of the Department of Entomology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. His glee at finding such good ‘subjects’ is rather ambiguous, and steeped in ambivalent attitudes towards the homeless and their bodies.
It’s a fascinating article, and the British Pathé video embedded in the post is intriguing, repellent and condescending all at the same time.
Medical research always seemed to get a boost in war time, didn’t it? We might have expected that when it came to surgery of war-wounds being improved, almost as a situation of desperation. But there were also improvements in psychiatry (eg post traumatic stress disorder), nutrition, infections etc.