First aid and voluntarism in England, 1945-1985

Ramsden, Stefan and Cresswell, Rosemary (2019) First aid and voluntarism in England, 1945-1985. Twentieth Century British History, 30 (4). pp. 504-30. ISSN 0955-2359 (

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First aid was the focus of growing voluntary activity in the post-war decades. Despite the advent of the National Health Service in 1948, increased numbers of people volunteered to learn, teach, and administer first aid as concern about health and safety infiltrated new activities and arenas. In this article we use the example of the Voluntary Aid Societies (VAS, focusing in particular on St John Ambulance) to highlight continuities and change in the relationship between state and voluntary sector in health and welfare provision during the four decades after 1945. Though the state assumed vastly expanded health and welfare responsibilities after the war, the continuing vitality of the VAS suggests cultural continuities that the post-war welfare state did not eradicate. The article therefore builds on the insights of historians who argue that volunteering remained a vital component of British society across the later twentieth century, and that the state and voluntary sector were not mutually exclusive.