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Repairing the body, restoring the soul: the Sea Hospital of the City of Paris in Berck-sur-Mer and the French war on tuberculosis
Vanobbergen, B.; Vansieleghem, N. (2010). Repairing the body, restoring the soul: the Sea Hospital of the City of Paris in Berck-sur-Mer and the French war on tuberculosis. Paedagog. Hist. 46(3): 325-340.
In: Paedagogica Historica: International Journal of the History of Education. Centrum voor Studie van de Historische Pedagogiek: Gent. ISSN 0030-9230, more
Peer reviewed article  

Available in  Authors 
    VLIZ: Open Repository 248279 [ OMA ]

Author keywords
    history of childhood, medicalisation, France, sea hospitals

Authors  Top 
  • Vanobbergen, B., more
  • Vansieleghem, N.

    In the second half of the nineteenth century, France suffered of one of the highest rates of tuberculosis in Europe. This illness increased gradually until its peak in the late 1880s and early 1890s, whereupon it started decreasing. The high infant mortality rate, caused by different forms of tuberculosis, was especially considered a huge problem. Infant mortality claimed as many lives as major epidemic diseases and thus had a considerable effect on long-term demographic development. The concern over tuberculosis and infant mortality led to the development of several initiatives and the establishment of numerous kinds of institutions. An example of this was the rise of sea hospitals on different European coasts, which were believed to enhance children’s welfare by putting them in a healthy environment. This paper deals with the history of the Sea Hospital of the City of Paris, which will be analysed as part of a larger project of social, medical and educational engineering, i.e. processes of institutionalisation in France in the nineteenth century. In the discussion regarding the rise and the growth of sea hospitals for tuberculous children two topics are explored. First, there is the development of a professional network of medical services aimed towards children at risk during the second half of the nineteenth century. In the history of the sea hospital in Berck-sur-Mer the development of this medical discourse can be illustrated by the transition from a hospice maritime (focusing on the sea, the sun and the sand as natural healing agents) towards an hôpital maritime (where medical treatments required the more and more professional medical doctors). The second topic deals with those mechanisms that lay behind the growing medicalisation of childhood. In line with, for example, the research of Bakker and De Beer on the educational meaning of the medical inspection in Dutch schools, the article will consider how the (medical) practices aimed at the children living in the sea hospital were embedded within their social and cultural context. The central idea is that these practices were functioning as normalising techniques. The leitmotiv of Cazin, the doctor in charge at the sea hospital between 1879 and 1891, “Il ne s’agit pas de guérir, mais de refaire et créer” (It is not about healing, but about reconstructing and creating), illustrates this idea very well. The medical practices that took place in the sea hospital clearly served a double goal. Of course, the medical doctors were striving for an improvement in the children’s medical status. However, the focus was much more on moulding the children’s hearts and souls. By removing the children from their family and by putting them in a natural setting, far away from all dangers of their life in the city, the hope existed to create newborn citizens.

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