A Brief History of Florence Nightingale
and Her Real Legacy, a Revolution in Public Health
By Hugh Small
The true story of Florence Nightingale's life, focusing on her real legacy: how she put a sanitary disaster in her wartime hospital to good use in reducing the very high mortality from epidemic disease in the civilian population at home.
Praise for Small's earlier work on Nightingale: 'Hugh Small, in a masterly piece of historical detective work, convincingly demonstrates what all previous historians and biographers have missed . . . This is a compelling psychological portrait of a very eminent (and complex) Victorian.'
James Le Fanu, Daily Telegraph
Florence Nightingale (1820-1910) is best known as a reformer of hospital nursing during and after the Crimean War, but many feel that her nursing reputation has been overstated.
A Brief History of Florence Nightingale tells the story of the sanitary disaster in her wartime hospital and why the government covered it up against her wishes. After the war she worked to put the lessons of the tragedy to good use to reduce the very high mortality from epidemic disease in the civilian population at home. She did this by persuading Parliament in 1872 to pass laws which required landlords to improve sanitation in working-class homes, and to give local authorities rather than central government the power to enforce the laws. Life expectancy increased dramatically as a result, and it was this peacetime civilian public health reform rather than her wartime hospital nursing record that established Nightingale's reputation in her lifetime.
After her death the wartime image became popular again as a means of recruiting hospital nurses and her other achievements were almost forgotten. Today, with nursing's new emphasis on 'primary' care and prevention outside hospitals, Nightingale's focus on public health achievements makes her an increasingly relevant figure.
Hugh Small is a social historian and political economist with a long previous career in industry after graduating from Durham University with honours in physics and psychology.
From 1976 to 1981 Hugh Small was the principal network architect for the world's first commercial internet, the SITA multi-airline reservations network. From 1983 to 1998 he was a partner in two US strategic management consulting firms, Arthur D. Little and A.T. Kearney.
In 1998 he changed career and began to research social reform in Victorian Britain. His historical publications include Florence Nightingale, Avenging Angel (Constable, 1998) and The Crimean War (Tempus Publishing, 2007). His final revised biography of Florence Nightingale will be published in the summer of 2017 by Robinson, an imprint of Little, Brown Book Group. It reveals new evidence that Nightingale implemented the sanitation revolution which academics now agree was the cause of the astonishing increase in national life expectancy which began in the 1870s. This activity had nothing to do with the hospital nursing reforms with which Nightingale has been traditionally associated.
Hugh Small is a widower with two daughters and five grandchildren. His website is www.hugh-small.co.uk
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- Publication date:
03 Aug 2017
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(A review of Hugh Small's earlier work on Nightingale) Hugh Small, in a masterly piece of historical detective work, convincingly demonstrates what all previous historians and biographers have missed . . . This is a compelling psychological portrait of a very eminent (and complex) Victorian. — James Le Fanu, Daily Telegraph
(A review of Hugh Small's earlier work on Nightingale) Small comes at his subject from a novel and startlingly illuminating perspective. Far from debunking this great Victorian icon, however, his portrait liberates a formidable woman from dreamy angelhood, underlining her tragic heroism instead. — Michael Kerrigan, The Scotsman
(A review of Hugh Small's earlier work on Nightingale) Small's Nightingale is driven, tormented, messianic and interesting. — Margaret van Dagens, New York Times
(A review of Hugh Small's earlier work on Nightingale) History has not been kind to Florence Nightingale. Ever since Lytton Strachey caricatured her in Eminent Victorians, she has been attacked (mainly by men) as bossy and manipulative. Feminists have deconstructed her breakdowns and sexuality and woven candyfloss theory about her years in bed. Hugh Small's gripping story of Nightingale's nemesis and redemption goes a long way to rehabilitate her. — Jane Ridley, The Spectator,
(A review of Hugh Small's earlier work on Nightingale) Small's thesis is genuinely new and rewrites the psycho-feminist claim that Nightingale collapsed in a heap back in England because she couldn't bear to be near her dominating mother and elder sister. Small stays in the realm of psycho-biography, but gives it a stiffer spine, marrying Nightingale's slump to a set of tormenting statistics . . . It is part detective story, part biography, and wholly relevant to current debates about preventive medicine. A third of the size of a regular biography, it inserts itself in the gaps which bigger, older studies of Nightingale have left behind, and explores the reasons for their reticence. In the process, the book becomes not just a study of one life, or one historical problem, but a commentary on the difficulties of writing about both. — Kathryn Hughes, Literary Review
(A review of Hugh Small's earlier work on Nightingale) Small's detailed examination of Nightingale's hospital work and the crisis that followed it sheds new light on her life and a surprising one on the way she was viewed at the time. Not quite the lady of the lamp that we all thought. — Miranda Seymour, Sunday Times
(A review of Hugh Small's earlier work on Nightingale) Small's book is full of interesting detail. — Helen Epstein, New York Review of Books,