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The Expulsion of South Africa and Rhodesia from the Commonwealth Medical Association, 1947–70

  • John Stewart (a1)

Abstract

In 1970 the medical associations of South Africa and Rhodesia (now, Zimbabwe) were expelled from the Commonwealth Medical Association. The latter had been set up, as the British Medical Commonwealth Medical Conference, in the late 1940s by the British Medical Association (BMA). These expulsions, and the events leading up to them, are the central focus of this article. The BMA’s original intention was to establish an organisation bringing together the medical associations of the constituent parts of the expanding Commonwealth. Among the new body’s preoccupations was the relationship between the medical profession and the state in the associations’ respective countries. It thus has to be seen as primarily a medico-political organisation rather than one concerned with medicine per se. Although, there were also tensions from the outset regarding the membership of the Southern African medical associations. Such stresses notwithstanding, these two organisations remained in the BMA-sponsored body even after South Africa and Rhodesia had left the Commonwealth. This was not, however, a situation which could outlast the growing number of African associations which joined in the wake of decolonisation; and hardening attitudes towards apartheid. The article therefore considers: why the BMA set up this Commonwealth body in the first place and what it hoped to achieve; the history of the problems associated with South African and Rhodesian membership; and how their associations came to be expelled.

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Copyright

Corresponding author

* Email address for correspondence: John.Stewart@gcu.ac.uk

Footnotes

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An early version of this paper was given at the Centre for the Social History of Health and Healthcare, Glasgow, in 2015 and I am grateful for the audience’s helpful comments. I would also like to thank this journal’s anonymous referees and editor for their useful feedback. At the British Medical Association’s Archives, Lee Sands provided invaluable support and advice.

Footnotes

References

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1. ‘A British Medical Conference’, The Medical Journal of Australia, II, (1948), 639–40.

2. ‘The British Medical Conference’, Canadian Medical Association Journal, 60, 4 (1949), 410.

3. N. Ahmed, ‘British Commonwealth Medical Conference’, Journal of the Pakistan Medical Association, 1, 2 (1949), 26–7.

4. There is a passing reference in Peter Bartrip, Themselves Writ Large: The British Medical Association 1832–1966 (London: BMJ Publishing Group, 1996), 292–3. See also Terence Johnson and Marjorie Caygill, ‘The British Medical Association and Its Overseas Branches: A Short History’, The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 1, 3 (1973), 303–29.

5. For the foundation of the WHO, James A. Gillespie, ‘Social medicine, social security and international health, 1950–60’, in Esteban Rodríguez-Ocaña (ed.), The Politics of the Healthy Life: An International Perspective (Sheffield: EAHMH, 2002), 219–39. For British health care in its international context, John Stewart, ‘Healthcare systems in Britain and Ireland in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries: the national, international and sub-national contexts’, in Donnacha Seán Lucey and Virginia Crossman (eds), Healthcare in Ireland and Britain from 1850: Voluntary, Regional and Comparative Perspectives (London: Institute of Historical Research, 2014), 61–78. For international organisations founded prior to 1939 see, for instance, Iris Borowy, Coming to Terms with World Health: The League of Nations Health Organisation, 1921–46 (Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2009). On the importance of Britain’s empire to Irish doctors, at least until after 1945, Greta Jones, ‘ “A Mysterious Discrimination”: Irish Medical Emigration to the United States in the 1950s’, Social History of Medicine, 25, 1 (2012), 139–56.

6. On New Zealand, Linda Bryder and John Stewart, ‘ “Some Abstract Socialistic Ideal or Principle”: British Reactions to New Zealand’s 1938 Social Security Act’, Britain and the World, 8, 1 (2015), 51–75.

7. Gillespie, op. cit. (note 5), 231–3.

8. Mandisa Mbali, ‘ “A Matter of Conscience”: The Moral Authority of the World Medical Association and the Readmission of the South Africans, 1976–94’, Medical History, 58, 2 (2014), 257–77.

9. Darwin, John, The Empire Project: The Rise and Fall of the British World System, 1830–1970 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 543.

10. Dubow, Saul, A Commonwealth of Knowledge: Science, Sensibility, and White South Africa, 1820–2000 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), 248249.

11. See Johnson and Caygill, op. cit. (note 4).

12. Conway, Daniel and Leonard, Pauline, Migration, Space and Transnational Identities: The British in South Africa (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), 181 and passim.

13. Archives of the British Medical Association (hereafter, BMA), CMA/1/1, letter, 18 July 1947, Charles Hill to Commonwealth Medical Associations (hereafter CMAs).

14. BMA, CMA/1/1, letter, 18 November 1947, A.H. Tonkin, Medical Association of South Africa (hereafter MASA), to Hill.

15. BMA, CMA/1/1/, letter, 5 November 1947, T.C. Routley, general secretary of the Canadian Medical Association, to Hill; Archives of the Canadian Medical Association (hereafter, ACMA), Minutes of a Meeting of the Executive Committee, October 1947. I am grateful to the Association’s archivist for locating this material.

16. In this context it is significant that, as Bartrip, op. cit. (note 4), 292 notes, Canada was ‘never a BMA stronghold’.

17. ‘Overseas Conference’, BMJ: Supplement, II (1948), 39.

18. For the Bureau’s origins and activities see, for example, letters from Sandiford, H.A., ‘Medical Director of the Empire Medical Advisory Bureau, to the Editor’, New Zealand Medical Journal, 48, 259 (1948), 273274, and 49, 263 (1949).

19. BMA, CMA/1/1, British Commonwealth Medical Council, ‘Inaugural Meeting to Be Held on 15 September, 1948: Document 2, Constitution of the Council: Notes Submitted for Discussion’, 2, 1.

20. BMA, CMA/1/1, British Commonwealth Medical Council, ‘Inaugural Meeting to Be Held on 15 September, 1948: Document 3, ‘The Medical Revolution in Great Britain’, 1, 11.

21. See Webster, Charles, The Health Services Since the War: Volume I, Problems of Health Care (London: HMSO, 1988).

22. ACMA, Minutes of a Meeting of the Executive Committee, October 1948, J.F.C. Anderson, ‘A Report of a Meeting of Representatives of British Commonwealth Associations’.

23. Letter from Cox, Alfred, BMJ, II, (1948), 690.

24. Leading article, ‘Medicine in the Commonwealth’, BMJ, II, (1948), 606.

25. Dubow, op. cit. (note 10), passim.

26. ‘Cancellation of Meetings in South Africa’, The Medical Journal of Australia, I, (1951), 341.

27. BMA, CMA/1/4, letter, 6 March 1951, A.D. Kelly, assistant secretary of the Canadian Medical Association, to BMA secretary, Angus Macrae.

28. BMA, CMA/1/4, letter, 19 November 1951, A.H. Tonkin, medical secretary of MASA, to Macrae, BMA.

29. Baldwin-Ragaven, Laura, London, Leslie and De Gruchy, Jeanelle, An Ambulance of the Wrong Colour: Health Professionals, Human Rights and Ethics in South Africa (Cape Town: University of Cape Town Press, 1999), 148.

30. Noble, Vanessa, A School of Struggle: Durban’s Medical School and the Education of Black Doctors (Scottsville, South Africa: University of KwaZulu-Natal Press, 2013), 267.

31. Dubow, op. cit. (note 10), 247, 249.

32. Journal of the Indian Medical Association, XXI, (1952), 44.

33. BMA, CMA/1/5, letter, 19 August 1952, Macrae to J.E.A. David, honorary secretary of the Medical Association of Southern Rhodesia (British Medical Association).

34. BMA, CMA/1/4, letter, 18 September 1952, M.H. Webster, Medical Association of Southern Rhodesia, to Macrae.

35. BMA, CMA/1/5, letter, 6 October 1953, Tonkin to Macrae.

36. Ibid., letter, 20 September 1954, Tonkin to Macrae.

37. Ibid., letter, 7 January 1955, Macrae to A.D. Kelly, Canadian Medical Association.

38. Ibid., letter, 27 January 1955, Macrae to Tonkin.

39. Ibid., letter, 2 February 1955, Tonkin to Macrae.

40. ‘Commonwealth Conference and Annual Meeting’, Canadian Medical Journal, 73, 1 (1955), 52–3.

41. BMA, CMA/1/5, ‘British Commonwealth Medical Conference, Report of the Fourth Conference, Toronto, 1955’, 6–7.

42. For recent scholarly discussions of South African medical history, Anne Digby, ‘The Medical History of South Africa: An Overview’, History Compass, 6, 5 (2008), 1194–210; and Julie Parle and Vanessa Noble, ‘New Directions and Challenges in Histories of Health, Healing and Medicine in South Africa’, Medical History, 58, 2 (2014), 147–65.

43. BMA, CMA/1/7, ‘British Commonwealth Medical Conference: Sixth Conference, Auckland, 1st to 4th February, 1961’, 3.

44. BMA, CMA/1/11, letter, 25 January 1968, Adrian Webb, honorary general secretary of the Medical Association of New Zealand, to D.P. Stevenson, honorary secretary-treasurer, CMA; and letter, 6 February 1968, Stevenson to Webb.

45. BMJ, II, (1968), 427–9.

46. Marks, Shula, ‘Southern Africa’, in Brown, Judith M. and Louis, William Roger (eds), The Oxford History of the British Empire, Volume IV: The Twentieth Century (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 567.

47. Ward, Stuart, ‘Imperial identities abroad’, in Stockwell, Sarah (ed.), The British Empire: Themes and Perspectives (Oxford: Blackwell, 2008), 238.

48. See the correspondence in BMA, CMA/1/10.

49. BMA, CMA/1/10, letter, 1 July 1966, John Chadwick, Commonwealth Foundation, to D.P. Stevenson, BMA.

50. Chadwick, John, ‘The Commonwealth Fund: Developing Professional Standards’, The Round Table, 57, 226 (1967), 177182.

51. The Commonwealth Foundation, The Commonwealth Foundation: The First Five Years, 1966–71 (London: The Commonwealth Foundation, 1971), 4, 10, 32ff; and John Chadwick, The Unofficial Commonwealth: The Story of the Commonwealth Foundation, 1965–80 (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1982), chs 3–6.

52. BMA, CMA/1/10, ‘Note for File DLG/JAF: Commonwealth Foundation’, 2.

53. Archives of the Anti-Apartheid Movement, Bodleian Library, University of Oxford (hereafter, Bodleian), MSS.AAM 13, typescript, ‘Annual Report, August 1968/August 1969’, 8. On the neglect of this issue by MASA, see Baldwin-Ragaven et al., op. cit. (note 29), 150–1. On the Durban Medical School, Noble, op. cit. (note 30), ch. 6, ‘The 1950s and 1960s: medical students and the anti-apartheid struggle in Durban’.

54. Bodleian, MSS.AAM 114, ‘General Correspondence on Health Matters’, letters, Ethel de Keyser, 28 April 1969, to David Kerr MP and 30 April to H.C. Faulkner, MPU, and Harry Keen, SMA.

55. ‘Payment by Colour’, BMJ, II, (1969), 586–7.

56. Harrison, Brian, Finding a Role? The United Kingdom, 1970–90 (Oxford: Oxford University Press), 38ff.

57. Baldwin-Ragaven et al., op. cit. (note 29), ch. 7, passim.

58. BMA, CMA/1/12, letter, 23 April 1970, Malaysian Medical Association to Stevenson, BMA.

59. Ibid., letter, 2 June 1970, R.D. Martin, Rhodesian Medical Association, to Stevenson, BMA; and letter, 5 June 1970, P.D. Combrink, MASA, to Stevenson, BMA.

60. Ibid., letter, 7 May 1970, Stevenson to Honorary Secretaries, CMA member associations.

61. Brennan, D.J., ‘The Commonwealth Medical Association’s Council Meeting, 1970: Observations of an Observer’, The Medical Journal of Australia, II, (1970), 1210.

62. BMA, CMA/1/12, ‘Commonwealth Medical Association: Minutes of 5th Council Meeting’, 2–5. There is also an edited and abbreviated, although substantially accurate, account of these events in ‘Commonwealth Medical Association: Fifth Biennial Council Meeting’, BMJ, III, (1970), 516–18. A brief account of what the CMA did with this grant can be found in The Commonwealth Foundation, Commonwealth Co-operation and the Role of Professional Associations: Occasional Paper XXVIII (London: The Commonwealth Foundation, 1974), 22–3.

63. BMA, op. cit. (note 62), 6–7.

64. Brennan, op. cit. (note 61), 1210.

65. BMA, op. cit. (note 62), 8–10.

66. Davenport, T.R.H. and Saunders, Christopher, South Africa: A Modern History, 5th edn (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 2000), 661.

67. BMA, op. cit. (note 62), 8.

68. BMA, op. cit. (note 62), 10.

69. BMA, CMA/1/12, ‘Final Press Statement: 5th Council Meeting Commonwealth Medical Association’.

70. BMA, CMA/1/12, clipping from The Medical Journal of Malaya, XXV, 3 (1971), 166–7.

71. ‘Race and Commonwealth’, BMJ, III, (1970), 475–6.

72. Supplement to the BMJ, II, (1971), 79.

73. P.D. Combrink, ‘Report on the Expulsion of the Medical Association of South Africa from the Commonwealth Medical Association: The History of the Commonwealth Medical Association with Particular Reference to the Membership Thereof of the Medical Association of South Africa’, South African Medical Journal, 19 September 1970, 1067–9.

74. E.W. Turton, ‘Report of the Chairman of the Federal Council for the Year Ended 31 December 1970’, South African Medical Journal, 6 March 1971, 269.

75. Letters from J. Stallworthy, BMJ, III, (1970), 527. Brian Beach, BMJ, III, (1970), 648; and Victor Russell, H. Vincent Corbett, BMJ, III, (1970), 706.

76. Supplement to the BMJ, IV, (1971), 20–1.

77. Michael Gelfand, Christian Doctor and Nurse: The History of Medical Missions in South Africa from 1799–1976 (Sandton, RSA: privately printed, 1984), 7, 135.

78. Noble, op. cit. (note 30), 66.

79. Gale, G.W., ‘Race and Commonwealth’, BMJ, III (1970), 705706.

80. B. Lewis, ‘Race and Commonwealth’, BMJ, III, (1970), 774. For his contact with the AAM, see the reference in Bodleian, MSS.AAM 114, letter, 30 April 1969, Ethel de Keyser to H.C. Faulkner.

81. Medical Journal of Australia, I, (1972), 1263.

82. See Mbali, op. cit. (note 8), passim.

83. BMA, CMA/1/8, ‘British Commonwealth Medical Conference: Seventh Conference and British Commonwealth Medical Association: First Meeting of Council, Ceylon 21–24 November, 1962’, 17–18.

84. Ibid., 1, 6.

85. On the last point, Marks, op. cit. (note 46), 567.

86. Davenport and Saunders, op. cit. (note 66), 661–2; also Mbali, op. cit. (note 8).

An early version of this paper was given at the Centre for the Social History of Health and Healthcare, Glasgow, in 2015 and I am grateful for the audience’s helpful comments. I would also like to thank this journal’s anonymous referees and editor for their useful feedback. At the British Medical Association’s Archives, Lee Sands provided invaluable support and advice.

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