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Summoning the Future

The story of the British National Health Service, one of the twentieth century’s great working-class achievements.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 27: Children representing the Great Ormond Street Hospital, the NHS and children literature take part in the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on July 27, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)

In the decades before the National Health Service (NHS), health care in Britain was guided by very different ideas. Most of the country’s hospitals were grim Victorian centers for the destitute, derived from workhouse infirmaries established under the Poor Law. This 1834 statute saw poverty as a moral failing — and one that should be punished […]

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