ISBN 9780992176693
Pages 264
Dimensions 244 x 170mm
Published 2017
Publisher Natal Society Foundation, South Africa
Format Paperback

The People's Hospital

A History of McCords, Durban, 1890s-1970s

by Julie Parle, Vanessa Noble

Durban's McCord Hospital, this book argues, is one of the most important hospitals of the twentieth century. Founded 'for the Zulu' in 1909 by American Christian missionaries, Dr James B. McCord and Margaret Mellen McCord, for more than a century it was a centre of affordable health care for the under privileged of many faiths, cultures and political persuasions. It also pioneered the training of black nurses, midwives and doctors and was supported by prominent figures such as John L. Dube and Chief Albert Luthuli.

It initially faced, however, strong opposition from white factions in Durban and, by the 1960s was directly targeted for closure by South African Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd himself. McCords survived in part because apartheid forces did not understand that for several generations and for many communities, it had come to be a 'people's hospital'. This identity would help carry it through to the early twenty-first century with the conviction and courage, when necessary, to stand up against the State when its policies threatened the health of all South Africa's people.

This is a history of the religious, health, medical and political contexts of Natal and South Africa from the late 1800s to the 1970s. There are many stories of important firsts and milestones, but what emerges is more than simply a straightforward tale of heroism and triumph. Instead, we tell multiple stories of struggles, successes, failures, frustrations, sacrifices, and how, on occasion, difficult choices and compromises had to be made.

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'[This book] is commendably rich in its presentation of the social history of McCords.'

Howard Phillips, Emeritus Professor of History, University of Cape Town

'The People's Hospital represents ground-breaking and extremely well-informed research ... [This] is a fascinating and highly readable book ... recommended to all interested in South Africa's past or specifically in the story of McCord Hospital.'

Dr Helen Sweet, Research Associate, Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine, University of Oxford

About the Authors

Julie Parle

Julie Parle is Honorary Professor of History at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, with publications on the histories of medicine, madness, witchcraft, hysteria, hospitals, gender, emotions, and archival ethics.

Vanessa Noble

Vanessa Noble is a lecturer in Historical Studies at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. She has several publications on the histories of health and healing in South Africa.