'A Peculiar Diversity'
: Public Health in Inverness County 1845 - 1912

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (awarded by OU/Aberdeen)


This thesis examines public health developments in Inverness County between
1845 and 1912. Government legislation, policies and practical guidance were
prolific during this period but effective implementation was left to local government.
Scholarship on public health problems and achievements has concentrated
primarily on larger towns and cities. This thesis shifts the focus to smaller towns,
villages and scattered communities within a large geographical area. It
demonstrates that, given the limitations of state intervention and diverse socioeconomic conditions, delivering public health improvements in a rural region was
often complex in different ways from urban areas.
The development of public health in Inverness County was affected by a
range of local variables. They included wider structural, social and economic
changes in the Highlands. Transformation of the transport network, particularly the
stimulus of railway construction, encouraged growth in business and tourism. It
was also a time when government intervened more actively in economic
circumstances especially after the 1880s. In addition to these wider influences,
localised social, economic and geographic conditions and power structures had a
profound and often limiting effect on public health activity. Four main local factors
shaped developments in the region’s public health provision. These were middle
class influence on public health policy and practice; questions about the
affordability of any proposed public health scheme; the power of landowners to
shape the nature of these provisions; and the geographic and technical feasibility
of meeting public health needs in a dispersed region of varied and challenging
topography. Personal agency was also a crucial dynamic of progress with
individuals taking a prominent role in campaigning and practical actions.
The nature and extent of public health services and infrastructure differed
widely within the County. The interplay between national, regional and local factors
both enabled achievements and restricted improvements. By expanding
understanding of public health developments in a rural region, this thesis
establishes that the history of public health should no longer be regarded as
synonymous with urban and industrial situations
Date of Award10 Mar 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Aberdeen
SupervisorJim MacPherson (Supervisor) & Elizabeth Ritchie (Supervisor)

Cite this