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British Social Hygiene Council

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0120 SA/BSH
Held at: Wellcome Library
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Full title: British Social Hygiene Council
Date(s): 1914-1957
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: 45 boxes, 1 outsize box
Name of creator(s): British Social Hygiene Council
Detailed catalogue: Click here to view repository detailed catalogue


Administrative/Biographical history:

The National Council for Combatting Venereal Diseases was established as a result of the appointment of a Royal Commission on Venereal Diseases in 1913. A number of members of the commission and others concerned about the problem of sexually transmitted diseases came together to set up this Council, which was concerned with propaganda and education as well as the investigation of the problem. A leading motivating figure who continued to be a major figure in the Council's activities was Mrs Sybil Neville Rolfe (formerly Gotto). In 1917 as a result of the recommendations of the Royal Commission the NCCVD was given the task of conducting the educational and propaganda work deemed desirable by the Commission, with funding from central government. In 1929 this funding was devolved to local authorities by the Local Government Act of that year, but although local authorities were supposed to undertake educational work as well as the treatment of venereal diseases not all of them contributed to the work of the British Social Hygiene Council as it had become known. The resulting financial stringency had a serious effect on the Council and its work and it does not seem to have managed to find sources of funding equivalent to the amounts it received from the Ministry during the 1920s.

The archive is very far from being complete. It is predominantly the minutes which survive, with a little correspondence and other papers which had been inserted into the volumes, a few financial records from the later period of the Council's activities, and an incomplete set of the new series of the journal Health and Empire, 1926-1940. There are some noticeable gaps even among the surviving minutes: no minutes of the Financial Comittee survive, there are no records of the early Civilian Committee which was the counterpart of the Military Committee, and there were over one hundred branches of which only the records of the London and Home Counties Branch are represented here, probably because it was reconstituted as a Committee of the Council in 1922.

In spite of its lacunae this is an important collection of a body which played a significant public role in the determination of policy on venereal disease control, the provision of facilities for its treatment, and in particular for the dissemination of propaganda and public health education in this field. As a concomitant of the latter task it became a leading provider of sex education and the teaching of biology, and training for teachers and others for this purpose. The change of name in 1925 reflected the Council's perception of its wider remit in the promotion of 'social hygiene' in the broader sense. There was a strong overseas and imperial dimension to its work, and port welfare and the Mercantile Marine were particular objects of concern. A glance at the various committees, subcommittees, advisory boards, joint standing committees, etc, indicates the range of interests of the Council.


Scope and content/abstract:

Minutes of National Council for Combatting Venereal Diseases (later the British Social Hygiene Council) including of Annual and Executive meetings, and other committees, sub-committees, standing committees and advisory boards, 1914-1957; also London and Home Counties Branch/Committee minutes, 1917-1940; a few financial records, 1942-1952; and journal Health and Empire, 1926-1940; pamphlets and similar literature of the NCCVD and related organisations, 1913-1918, n.d..

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

Summary List
A : Business, Council, AGM and Executive Committee Minutes
B : Military/Services/Imperial and International Committee and sub-committees
C : Propaganda Committee and sub-committee
D : Medical Committee/Medical Advisory Board and sub-committees
E : Literature committee
F: Social Hygiene/Social Implications of VD Committee and sub-committees
G: Other sub-committees, advisory boards and standing committees
H : London and Homes Counties Branch/London Committee
J: Financial/Miscellaneous
K: Health and Empire
L : Pamphlets, etc of the NCCVD and other bodies

Conditions governing access:

The papers are available subject to the usual conditions of access to Archives and Manuscripts material, after the completion of a Reader's Undertaking.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Photocopies/photographs/microfilm are supplied for private research only at the Archivist's discretion. Please note that material may be unsuitable for copying on conservation grounds, and that photographs cannot be photocopied in any circumstances. Readers are restricted to 100 photocopies in twelve months. Researchers who wish to publish material must seek copyright permission from the copyright owner.

Finding aids:

The catalogue to this collection has not yet been fully converted to electronic form: for detail, and to order material, see hard-copy list available in the Wellcome Library. Copies of the catalogue are available on request.

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

These records were transferred from the Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine, Oxford to the Contemporary Medical Archives Centre in July 1996, with a subsequent accession of the volumes of Health and Empire in October 1997. It would appear that these archives were originally placed in the Oxford Unit through the activities of Dr Joan Austoker, a former Fellow at the Unit, who did some research on the NCCVD/BSHC. At the time of that transfer the office of the BSHC was located in the basement of 69 Eccleston Square, London SW1, the then headquarters of the Eugenics Society.

Allied Materials

Related material:

In the Wellcome Library: For other related collections see the Sources Leaflet 'Sexually Transmitted Diseases'. Some material on the BSHC's Commission on Social Hygiene in Malta can be found in GC/193, the papers of Dr Letitia Fairfield.

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Copied from the Wellcome Library catalogue by Sarah Drewery.

Rules or conventions:
In compliance with ISAD (G): General International Standard Archival Description - 2nd Edition (1999); UNESCO Thesaurus, December 2001; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
Jan 2009

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