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Manual work, technology, and industrial health, 1918-39

McIvor, A.J. (1987) Manual work, technology, and industrial health, 1918-39. Medical History, 31 (2). pp. 160-189. ISSN 0025-7273

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Workers' health in the inter-war years has been the subject ofrecent enquiry and was a topic that generated much contentious contemporary debate.' The focus of discussion has been the impact ofmass unemployment and consequent deprivation on standards of health, physique, and general well-being. The object here is to open up a further, so far very neglected dimension, by switching attention to the workplace, and investigating the theme of health at work in the 1920s and 1930s.2 The present generation has grown up with the knowledge that work, working conditions, and technology may seriously affect the mental and physical health and well-being of individual workers, and that health, fitness, and fatigue can considerably influence productivity levels and efflciency. Evidence of these correlations accumulated with the practical work of the Factory Inspectorate from the 1830s, the weight of experience of a relatively thin strand of welfarist, humanitarian employers (of the G. Cadbury and S. Rowntree genre), and the experimentation of "scientific management" theorizers, including the Americans, F. W. Taylor (time study) and F. and L. Gilbreth (motion study).