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The Passionate Economist
How Brian Abel-Smith shaped global health and social welfare

Sally Sheard
Hardback, 576 pages, 234 x 156 mm
28 Nov 2013


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North America customers can order this book here from the University of Chicago Press.

“This book has many of the qualities possessed by Brian Abel-Smith, its subject: lively, stimulating and committed. Brian was a citizen of the world, one who not only bridged international boundaries but also those of policy, politics and academe. And Sally Sheard has done this remarkable man justice by producing a remarkable biography.” Professor Julian Le Grand, London School of Economics and Political Science
“As a result of her exhaustive research and with insightful writing, Sally Sheard brings readers the life and work of an influential activist intellectual. Brian Abel-Smith set standards for conducting research on health services and systems, advising policymakers, governing healthcare organizations, and participating in an international network dedicated to improving the human condition.” Professor Daniel M. Fox, Milbank Memorial Fund
“How 'academic' knowledge and research actually impact on policy has always been a challenging question. Brian Abel-Smith's career as a scholar, networker, entrepreneur and shaper of global health and welfare systems provides a fascinating and important case-study. In skilfully weaving together the evidence from personal and professional archives, Sally Sheard's book allows us to understand much more about a man who had an extraordinary influence on public policy.” Professor Ann Oakley, Institute of Education, University of London
"Sheard provides powerful evidence as to why Brian Abel-Smith, through his incisive and influential contributions to the development of health and social welfare policy both in Britain and further afield, should be regarded as one of the titans of post-1945 social administration."
Journal of Social Policy

About This Book

Brian Abel-Smith was one of the most influential expert advisers of the 20th century in shaping social welfare. He was a modern-day Thomas Paine, driven by a strong socialist mission to improve the lives of the poorest. This valuable and accessible book is the first biography of Abel-Smith. It takes a historical perspective to analyse the development of health and social welfare systems since the 1950s, exposing the critical impact of long-running debates on poverty and state responsibility, especially in Britain. This book also provides the first comparative study of how developing countries sought better health and social welfare, enabled by the World Health Organization and other agencies for whom Abel-Smith regularly worked. This book offers an engaging and useful study for students and researchers in health and social policy, history, politics and economics and interested general readers. It will also be essential reading for professionals working in those government ministries and institutions that Brian Abel-Smith helped to shape. LSE Pioneers in Social Policy Brian Abel-Smith, Richard Titmuss and Peter Townsend, all based at the London School of Economics and Political Science, made major contributions to the development of policies on the elderly, health care, law, poverty and welfare in the 20th century. This series of biographies tells the stories of these outstanding individuals: their backgrounds, ideas and work.

Author Biography

Sally Sheard is a health and social policy historian at the University of Liverpool, and Visiting Fellow at the London School of Economics and Political Science. She also works as a consultant providing local authorities with historical context on contemporary health issues and has appeared on various TV and radio programmes, including BBC4's documentary series Health before the NHS. She is the author of (with Liam Donaldson) The Nation’s Doctor: The role of the Chief Medical Officer, 1855-1998 (Oxford, Radcliffe Medical, 2005), and a member of the editorial team of History & Policy.


Part 1: Inheritances and duties, 1926-51
Inheritances: 1926-46
A wider world: 1946-51
Part 2: The politics of policies, 1951-79
Beveridge’s Britain: 1951-55
Political ambitions and private passions: 1955-59
Health and happiness: 1956-64
Lingua franca: 1956-67
Distractions and diversions: 1964-68
Values: 1968-70
Patriarchy and authority: 1970-74
'Such marvellous fun': 1974-76
Disillusionment: 1976-79
International commuting: 1975-79
Part 3: Shifting the balance of power, 1979-96
In and outers: 1979-91
The end of the party: 1979-90
On the move: 1990-96
Epilogue: Stories, histories and biographies.


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