Thousands of midwives will be visiting the city of Glasgow in Scotland next year to attend the 28th ICM Triennial Congress. This article gives a background to the history of the city (based on material from www.glasgow.gov.uk) and a closer look at what a midwife's life was like working there around 50 years ago.
Glasgow is sited near the west coast of Scotland, on the banks of the River Clyde. The city dates from the 7th century (Christian Era) when the patron saint, St Mungo, lived there. The University of Glasgow was founded in 1451 and Glasgow became a powerful academic and religious centre. Its wealth also expanded through its natural resources of coal and fish, as well as trade with other countries.
After the Treaty of Union in 1707, when Scotland joined England and became Great Britain, trade across the Atlantic grew, and much tobacco was shipped from America;
Glasgow's merchants in turn supplied Europe. Glasgow also traded with the West Indies, importing sugar.
In the 1770s, engineering works on the Clyde enabled large ships to sail into the city, which brought more industrial growth. Glasgow's population increased dramatically through the 19th century, as its industries attracted workers from the rest of Scotland, Ireland, and the Jewish, Italian and East European communities, who contributed greatly to the local economy and culture. The new industries included soap-making, glass-making, textiles, engineering and shipbuilding. From 1870 until 1914 Glasgow produced almost one-fifth of the world's ships. Glasgow was one of the richest cities in Europe and was acclaimed as a model of organised industrial society. Grand museums, galleries and libraries were built, along with a new telephone system, water and gas supplies.
But after the First World War Glasgow suffered industrial decline with the reduced demand for shipping. In the 1940s Glasgow had an acute shortage of housing: much of what remained were rundown tenements (four- or five-storey buildings, built in the 1880s to house numerous families). In 1947, after a Glasgow delegation visited Marseilles in France to see the new 'tower blocks' designed by the architect Le Corbusier; a high-rise policy was introduced to Glasgow. But as the high-rise flats went up, the old stone tenements came down, damaging local communities in the process. For example, the old Gorbals district, (captured visually by contemporary photographer Oscar Marzaroli), was impoverished and rundown,...