Blighted live : Deindustrialisation, health and well-being in the Clydeside region

McIvor, Arthur (2019) Blighted live : Deindustrialisation, health and well-being in the Clydeside region. 20 & 21: Revue d'histoire, 144. (In Press)

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One of the most common definitions of health is that adopted by the World Health Organisation (WHO): ‘Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.’1 Elsewhere I have commented on some of the ways that the long drawn-out process of deindustrialisation in the UK impacted on the body and affected health.2 In this article I take this discussion further by drilling down to focus on and examine in more depth one particular local region – the Clydeside area centred on Glasgow, Scotland’s largest city. It was an area dominated by docks, textile manufacture, chemicals, iron and steel works, engineering, shipbuilding, and coal mining with a long history of ill-health and deprivation linked to levels of poverty, overcrowding and environmental pollution. The process of plant, shipyard, steel works and pit closures associated with deindustrialisation undoubtedly added a further dimension to what has become known as the unhealthy ‘Glasgow effect’.3 This essay explores these connections, investigating how and why deindustrialisation affected morbidity and mortality in the Clydeside region, as well as ‘social well-being’ (WHO). This conversation has tended to date to focus largely around statistical data, especially the epidemiological evidence.4 The methodology deployed here is to combine a quantitative approach with a qualitative one, deploying personal oral testimonies to explore the embodied meaning of job loss for this generation of post-war manual workers, 1945-2000.


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