Introduction: Environment, Health and History

  • Virginia Berridge
  • Martin Gorsky


The environment and health are not always considered in the same breath. In 2009, when the Lancet published a special issue on the impact of climate change on health, commentators noted that the health impact of global warming had come on to the agenda only since the 1990s.1 Why are issues which appear to be closely connected, and have been connected in the past, so often discussed apart? This book historicises the changing nature of the connection, or lack of it, over time. It examines how and why health and the environment have been considered separately or together and why the relationship has changed. Such change has also taken place against a backdrop of evolving ideas of what is meant by ‘the environment’ and by ‘health’. The traditional environmental rubric of ‘airs, waters and places’ has come to encompass the built environment and urban growth. Deforestation, the extension of irrigation and the conversion of grasslands came on to the agenda as the environment itself changed. What is meant by health, and the term itself, has also changed across the centuries. Most recently the reformulations of ‘public health’ have intersected with the ‘new environmentalism’, as we will see below. This introductory chapter is in three sections. First, we survey very broadly the relationship between health and the environment from the Greeks to the near present, with brief allusions to where the book chapters fit into that time frame; then we examine how historians have written about health and the environment; and finally, we summarise the arguments which our authors make in this book.


Urban Growth National Health Insurance Scheme Environmental History Public Health Benefit Temperature Related Mortality 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Virginia Berridge and Martin Gorsky 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Virginia Berridge
  • Martin Gorsky

There are no affiliations available

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