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1847-1981 :

A thesis presented to the London School of Economics, University of London,
for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, by Julia Twigg
©AUTUMN 1981 - Thesis Index

The author is now Professor of Social Policy and Sociology at Kent University, England, and has given permission for this previously unpublished thesis to be published on the IVU website. The ownership and copyright remain hers and no part of this thesis may be used elsewhere without her express permission.


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The interwar years saw the continuation of the institutional trends of the late-nineteenth century, and the medical profession, aided by the great expansion of research and in particular by the advances of bacteriology, was increasingly confident in the basis of its knowledge. In response to this growing entrenchment, alternative medicine began to take on a more distinctive aspect. The antagonism between the orthodox medical profession and the alternative practitioners continued, and even grew. Health and Efficiency through the 1920s was continually attacking the BMA for being obscurantist in its refusal to look at therapies outside orthodoxy, and heresy-hunting in its hostility to those involved in them. The vegetarian magazines tended to be more circumspect, though they too referred to notorious cases such as that of Axham, the anaesthetist who had been struck off for working with Herbert Barker, the famous 'bonesetter'. (Barker was made a knight in 1922 much to the chagrin of many in the medical hierarchy). (1) Bertrand Allinson continued the earlier criticisms of surgery in particular, attacking the profession's penchant for unnecessary operations that, despite their dramatic quality, yielded, he believed, little benefit to the patient. (2)

Against this growing professionalisation in health care, the natural therapists of the period attempted to keep alive the sense of health as primarily the responsibility of the individual; thus although professional bodies did develop paralleling those found in orthodox medicine, the self-help theme remained strong.

A number of therapies established themselves at this time. Osteopathy, and to a lesser degree chiropractice, made considerable headway. (3) The water cure continued, though in much reduced scope, and often as a home treatment. Radiesthesia arrived from France in the late twenties; it was originally a diagnostic technique - the dowsing pendulum being used to trace diseased organs - though it came also to be used as a guide in prescriptions, usually homeopathic. Abrams 'black box' was another version of this. (4) Dr Bach and his flower remedies also had a vogue in the period, (5) as did the Alexander technique.

One particular treatment, however, occupied a special and central place this was nature cure. Naturopathy is a particular approach in itself, but it is also the uniting principle behind most alternative therapies: all to some degree draw on its basic concepts. In the development of nature cure in the period, the founding of the Nature Cure Clinic in 1928 has a special place. As we have seen, there had been nature-cure practitioners in the nineteenth-century - most notably in the vegetarian context, Dr T.R. Allinson and the Wallaces - and even some small hospitals, and there had been significant influences from the German tradition; but as yet there was no institution to provide a focus. The intention behind the clinic, whose moving spirit was Nina Hosali, was to provide a centre for nature-cure treatments, particularly for those of limited means. The clinic was also marked by its commitment to vegetarianism and to animal causes like anti-vivisection: Miss Hosali was herself a notable campaigner for animal welfare. (6) Treatment was provided by nature-cure doctors - the best known of whom were Dr Bertrand Allinson, Major Austin and Dr Valentine Knaggs - with ancillary help from osteopaths, masseuses etc. There were difficulties in the early years between these groups - the unregistered practitioners being reluctant to accept the clinic's policy of supervision by the medically qualified; and the General Medical Council put pressure on the doctors not to work with unqualified practitioners.

The interwar period also saw the founding of Stanley Leif's Champneys which followed the original naturopathic regime of Father Kneippe. Such institutions were at that time committed to nature cure, and had not yet become the health farms and slimming clinics they are largely today. To some extent these institutions in the twenties inherited the tradition of the hydros, after these had largely become hotels.

The fundamental principle behind nature cure is the ancient one of the vis medicatrix naturae – the healing power of nature. Nature cure's central concern is to co-operate with this underlying tendency and to help the body to make itself well. A second important concept is that the natural state of the body is one of abundant health; illness is an unnatural state; it results from unnatural living, from a bad way of life, from the neglect of nature's laws. Cure ultimately aims to change the patient's life so as to eradicate the underlying cause or distortion that has made him or her ill. Naturopathy properly is concerned not with treatment but with living a life that pre-empts the need for medical attention. Lastly, nature cure treats the person as a whole: a whole encompassing emotional, spiritual and social aspects as well as the more narrowly bodily. None of these concepts are ultimately alien to the traditions of orthodox medicine, though nature-cure practitioners argue that, especially during the twentieth century, their central importance has been obliterated by the rise of a range of distracting and interventionist techniques.

Subsequent to these central concepts are certain recurring subsidiary ones. The manifestations of illness tend – following the homeopathic and not the allopathic model - to be regarded, not as symptoms but as natural processes, as evidence of the body's attempt to cure itself; and the aim therefore is to stimulate and co-operate with this reaction, often termed the 'healing crisis'. Orthodox medicine by contrast regards these symptoms as diseased and aims at their eradication, and thus, according to nature cure, both suppresses the body's natural healing powers and masks the underlying cause.

A second recurring theme is that illness results from the accumulation of toxins or waste material in the body. Many forms of treatment aim at the encouragement of their elimination, whether through compresses to draw the toxins to the surface, through drinking distilled or spa water to flush out the system, or through the encouragement of sweating; and a vegetarian, frequently raw, diet is often recommended, since this was believed to both avoid the toxins found in meat (and later in processed food) and to encourage elimination generally. Pasting is also used as a means of releasing toxins or waste otherwise 'locked' in the tissues or left in the gut.

A third recurring theme is the use of the state of the blood stream as an emblem of the state of the body - and indeed of the person - generally; thus Milton Powell spoke of cancer having its roots in 'every drop of blood of the cancer sufferer'. (7)

Bad diet, especially meat, lead to a toxic or 'heavy' blood stream, and certain foods were favoured for their capacity to 'cleanse' the blood; thus James Hough, Secretary of the Vegetarian Society, in a lecture to the Practical Psychology Club of Manchester, said: 'green vegetables and fruits are real blood and nerve builders and most valuable blood purifiers' whereas flesh contains 'fatigue poisons'. (8) Sometimes this perception could shade into religious ideas. (9)

Nature cure also stresses exercise, fresh air and relaxation in contact with nature.

Two issues of the earlier period continued to exercise those in these circles: anti-vaccination and germ theory. Though the agitation of the nineteenth-century had declined, vaccination was still to some degree an issue. In 1924 there was a celebrated case concerning Dr Hadwen of Gloucester. (10) Hadwen was a vegetarian anti-vivisectionist and old opponent of vaccination, and under his influence as councillor and magistrate, Gloucester had been a no-vaccination city. In 1923 there was a smallpox outbreak, and in 1924 an attempt was made to have Hadwen removed from the medical register through a charge of professional neglect, though Hadwen was found not guilty. (11) Other vegetarians like Forward and Arthur Brayshaw of the Friend's Vegetarian Society kept the issue alive. (12) The Vaccination Acts were eventually repealed by the Labour Government in 1948. (13) In general, it may be said that though the anti-vaccinators were 'wrong' in their denial of the scientific effectiveness of vaccination, they were 'right' in their continual emphasis on the importance of public health, housing conditions and diet, social historians now tend to see these, rather than any medical advances, as the true cause of the decline in infectious diseases.

Germ theory continued to be viewed with disfavour in nature-cure circles. Some still rejected the theory wholesale, while others, accepting the presence of germs, argued they were but scavengers in the body and not the true cause of illness. There had earlier been acceptable medical reasons for doubt, though by now, especially for those medically qualified these were weak, and the continued opposition of nature cure to the theory in the period gave it a rather old fashioned and at times obscurantist tone. (14)

The dislike of germ theory within nature cure and vegetarian circles rested, in addition to its old association with vivisection, on the continuation of the earlier criticisms concerning the neutral character of the explanation. Nature cure is fundamentally concerned with the idea of illness as caused by erroneous way of life; this understanding can have a range of references from bad diet, bad physical conditions or poor environment, but it can also at times shade over into vaguer areas of moral responsibility and of life wrongly lived in less directly material ways. powerful within nature cure is the search for weaning in illness, and the criticisms that the mid-Victorians had earlier expressed in the context of sin and God's will were now increasingly conceived in terms of psychology and its moral paradigm for man. (15) Though this model was of course, very different, it still represents to an important degree a transformation of the essential belief in illness as meaningful and as arising from some form of personal failure

The second movement that picked up this sense of illness as arising from the circumstances of life was the environmental health tradition - heir of the nineteenth century sanitarian movement referred to in the previous chapter: the approach is well illustrated in interwar period in the Peckharn Health Centre. (16) Established in a working-class area, it aimed at preventative medicine offering regular family check-ups in the context of a club whose liberal facilities were intended to develop the members' interests and psychological capacities. Though based on orthodox medicine, the centre encouraged the use of organically grown food, rejecting pasteurised milk and processed foods as 'devitalised'. (17)

As with so much of this progressivist milieu between the wars, there is a scrubbed clean, 'healthy minded', slightly eugenicist tone to its approach - one already noted in the context of naturism, and carried through in the expressive aspects of its architecture. The centre was housed in a consciously modern building, which with its open, high visibility plan, its walls of glass so that it merges with the open air, and its ample sunbathing facilities epitomised many of the values of the inter-war modern movement in architecture. (18) Charles Holden, one of the pioneers of the introduction of the modern movement into Britain, was himself a vegetarian; (19) and Itten at the Bauhaus was a follower of the mystical health cult of Mazdaznan and spread its influence among the students. (20) Katherine Gilbert's analysis of the use of metaphors of cleanliness and hygiene in the language of the modern movement further underlines these interconnections within progressivism between the wars. (21)
During the twenties the issue of cancer begins to appear in the vegetarian and nature-cure journals, until by the late twenties and thirties, issue after issue contained articles on the subject. (22) In part this paralleled a growing concern generally over rising cancer figures. But cancer is also a special illness, marked by its mysteriousness, intractability and by the dread it arouses. Cancer patients are notoriously shunned, and quite unfocused aspects of guilt attach to their condition.

Cancer is significantly the one illness to be consistently named and singled out in the vegetarian medical context, and it illustrates some of the ways in which vegetarianism viewed things differently from othodoxy. Central was the belief that factors of life style held the key. T.R. Allinson and other late-nineteenth-century vegetarians had believed that meat, alcohol and tobacco were implicated, and his son Bertrand Allinson noted that cancer was rare among vegetarians and simple lifers, and saw it as a disease whose seeds were laid early in life. He recommended a raw food diet, if not always as a cure, at least as an ameliorative, and he believed that diet reform, particularly the use of brown bread, was central in prevention.

The second theme in the nature-cure approach was that of the role of emotional and mental aspects, particularly wrong habits of thought and feeling. (23) Cancer was in this period regarded as a purely physical disease, and the vegetarians in pointing to emotional factors were very much out of tune with the predominating view. It was not until the 1960s that orthodox medicine was to look seriously at these factors. When it came to do so, and when the idea of the 'cancer personality' and of the psychological genesis of the illness gained a certain popular following, there were shared ideas with these earlier nature-cure perceptions in the link with unhappiness or of psychological disharmony, but there were also important differences, in particular the new emphasis on thwarted anger and the failure to express negative feelings. In some sense, the personality recommended by someone like Mrs Goddard with its emphasis on rising above bad thoughts, represents just the kind now thought to produce problems. (24) Both models clearly bear a heavy imprint of the social, and in both cancer is perceived as the result of having failed to realise the prescribed form of personality.

Finally, vegetarianism in this period found an ally in Sir William Arbuthnot Lane and his New Health Society. (25) Lane had made his name in the late nineteenth century for the brilliance of his surgical technique. Like some others of that period, he believed that the colon and its contents were a source of disease, and he developed techniques for the surgical removal of large parts of the intestine as a preventative measure. He thus originally represented just that kind of heroic surgery that nature cure attacked. However, in the years before the First World War, under the influence of Metchnikoff, the populariser of yoghurt, Lane changed his mind radically. Intestinal stasis and alimentary toxaemia, he argued, were indeed linked with all sorts of illness, most notably cancer, but the answer lay in diet, and in 1926 he founded the New Health Society whereby he hoped to educate the public into a better diet, especially one using more brown bread, vegetables and fruit. Lane's society was not well received by orthodox medical opinion; and his views were largely dismissed. (26) At its height however, it had a popular drawing power; three thousand turned up in Oldham to hear an address. (27)

  1. 63. For Barker see E.H. Schoitz & J. Cyriax, Manipulation, Past and Present, 1975; VM, April, 1937, p104, for support for osteopaths against President of Royal College of Surgeons, see VN, Nov 1933, p291.
  2. 64. VM., Feb 1933, p65, BERTRAND ALLINSON:  d.1975, son of Dr T.R. Allinson; MD, University College Medical School; served in RAMC; one of the principal doctors of the Nature Cure Clinic; prominent in vegetarian circles; President of LVS; Vice President of NAVS.
  3. 65. Osteopathy bad been developed by Andrew Taylor Still (1828-1917) in America; he believed illnesses wore caused by spinal problems and that manipulation to restore the integrity of the spine would release the healing forces of the body and cure. Despite attacks from the American Medical Association, osteopathy spread, especially in the Western States where there were few trained doctors. Chiropractice, was developed by D.D. Palmer (1845-1913) an Iowa grocer; it used a slightly different manipulative technique, though the same focus on the spine. As osteopathy moved up the social scale and became more institutionalised and respectable, chiropractice took its place. Chiropractice retains wider 'alternative' aspects in its approach, though it too has become increasingly institutionalised. See E.H. Schiotz & J. Cyriax, p39-47.
  4. 66. Dowsing in Britain was traditionally restricted to water; it was the Abbé Mermet in France who claimed in the early years of the century that a pendulum passed over someone could detect disease. Aubrey Westlake in his The Pattern of Health, 1961, gives a good account of the early years of radiesthesia, or radionics, in England, p16-20. For the black box, see Brian H Inglis, Natural Medicine, 1979, p78.
  5. 67. Edward Bach (1880-1936) was a bacteriologist who gave up his career to go to Wales and search for natural healing substances. He made tincture of the whole plant, and his focus was on emotional states and on the production of tranquillity of mind. See Westlake, p9.
  6. 68. NINA HOSALI: b1898, daughter of a Scottish mother and Indian father (he was a bar student, but died soon after her birth), BSc and MSc at London University published a paper on mathematics in Proceedings of the Royal Society, 1923; travelled in North Africa, and in 1923 founded there with her mother the Society for the Protection of Animals in North Africa. Came to vegetarianism initially through the animal issue but became interested in health, in 1928 found herself running the Nature Cure Clinic, continuing to do so until 1963. Awarded MBE for animal work. Involved in Margaret Morris dance movement. See Kate Who was called the Toubiba: the SPANA Story, 1978. I am also indebted to Miss Hosali for information concerning the Nature Cure Clinic and movement.
  7. 69. VM, Feb 1925, p30
  8. 70. VM, June 1926, p134.
  9. 71. Dr Valentine Knaggs, writing in Blood and Superman, 1915, p37, quotes Rudolf Steiner and his belief that the blood stream is a species of second being, that is the mediator between animal and man; it is the mirror reflecting the cosmic life and instinctive life.
  10. 72. WALTER HADWEN: 1854-1932. MD Barts, vegetarian from 1878, tee-total, Plymouth Brethren, burial reformer, president of BUAV. See VM, Feb 1933, p52,
  11. 73. VM. Feb 1933, p52; Health & Efficiency, Jan 1925, p7.
  12. 74. See C.W. Forward, The Golden Calf, 1932, and Brayshaw, Quakers and Smallpox, Letchworth, 1943: 'smallpox is a filth disease, and has been banished by isolation, public sanitation and personal hygiene', p6. Health & Efficiency May 1927, p217.
  13. 75. By the 1950s and '60s the issue was largely dead, though a few still crusaded against the treatment, see Lionel Dole, The Blood Poisoners, Croydon 1965. A few vegetarians still object, though by and large it is not an issue. The recent debate over whooping cough vaccination did not stimulate any wider revival of the question.
  14. 76. See VM, March 1927, p62; VN, June 1931, p177 Bertrand Allinson; Health and Efficiency, May 1927, p217, June 1927, p274; VM Feb 1924, p30, Dr Milton Powell; Dr Valentine Knaggs, The Microbe as Friend and Foe, 1923.
  15. 77. See Peter Berger, 'Towards a Sociological understanding of Psychoanalysis', Social Research, 1965, for the shifts in modern consciousness that underlie the growing popularity of psychological explanation in the twentieth century. For the growing use of psychological explanation of illness, see writers like the vegetarian Dr Milton Powell in the vegetarian magazines and in Health and Efficiency, also later, his Outline of Naturopathic Psychotherapy, 1967. The older model in terms of nature also continues, see for example, VM, Feb 1933, p65, Dr Bertrand Allinson.
  16. 78. See Innes Pearse and Lucy Crocker, The Peckham Experiment: A Study of the Living Structure of Society, 1943, and Innes H. Pearse, The Quality of Life: The Peckham Approach to Human Ethology, 1979; Health & Efficiency, Jan 1929, p27.
  17. 79. The Peckham Experiment, p147-S.
  18. 80. Architectural Review, May 1935.
  19. 81. Information from Alan Johnson.
  20. 82. George Adams, 'Memories of a Bauhaus Student', Architecture Review, Sept 1968, p192.
  21. 83. 'Clean and Organic: A Study in Architectural Semantics', Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, 1951.
  22. 84. VM, Jan 1924, p10; VM, Feb 1925, p29, Milton Powell; also Valentine Knaggs, How to Prevent Cancer, 1932.
  23. 85. Mrs Jean Goddard, for example, spoke of how illness arose from spiritual disharmony, from emotions like blame, resentment, anger and jealousy. The aim was life in harnony with the divine law of love, casting out hate and unforgivingness, selfish and unworthy thoughts. The tone is that of mind cure. VM, June 1929, p118. See also Hauser, Harmonised Food Selection, p34.
    MRS JEAN MACRAE GODDARD: d.1980 in her late nineties. A friend and associate of Hugh Mapleton. Wife of HAROLD GODDARD, of the Plate Powder family and managing director of lmperial Typewriters. They gave much financial help to the VS and to the Order of the Cross. Obit, Alive, July 1980, p25.
  24. 86. Or again from Health & Efficiency, Feb 1926, p57, editorial on wholeness 'The disease germ of unresisted wrong will circulate in the spiritual blood stream carrying its taint everywhere'.
  25. 87. For Lane see DNB, and W.E. Tanner Sir William Arbuthnot Lane: His Life and Work, 2nd ed 1946. Also running references of approval for his work in the vegetarian magazines from 1926.
  26. 88. See Tanner, p127; and VM, July 1927, p136, for report showing that 80% of doctors repudiated Lane's views concerning brown bread.
  27. 89. Tanner, p128.

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