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Tuberculosis in black and white : using pre-antibiotic casefiles and radiographs to explore tuberculosis in children

Cessford, Rebecca Marie


Rebecca Marie Cessford


Rosemary Cresswell

Jo Buckberry


Tuberculosis is one of the oldest diseases still in existence today and is currently the leading cause of death by infectious disease. The understanding of tuberculosis in past populations is, however, limited by the uncertainty with which it can be diagnosed macroscopically in archaeological human remains. Musculoskeletal tuberculosis is the most visible form of the disease and it has been highlighted in historical research as being most common in children. Still, the issues associated with uncovering non-adult skeletal remains have made the study of tuberculosis in children inherently difficult. This relative dearth of information regarding musculoskeletal tuberculosis in children is further compounded historiographically. Historical literature has been dominated by pulmonary tuberculosis and since this occurs most frequently in young adults, it has been this age group that have received the greatest attention. This research aims to bring balance to the historical study of tuberculosis through the study of musculoskeletal tuberculosis in children using a collection of sanatorium records from the mid-twentieth century.

As an interdisciplinary study this research presents a new methodological approach for the study of disease in the past. Using clinical radiographs and their corresponding casefiles, it demonstrates the comparative and integrative application of such records as an adjunct to macroscopic examination of skeletal lesions. This presents further scope for understanding musculoskeletal tuberculosis, in recognising the various stages of destruction and healing associated with it. Additionally, this research has created a broader view of musculoskeletal tuberculosis in children during the first half of the twentieth century. Intrinsically, it demonstrates the value of integrative research, using archival medical records and radiographs, to develop knowledge of disease experience. The impact of this lies in the continuity or fluidity of medical practice through historical and heritage-based disciplines towards further understanding past disease and its contribution towards disease eradication in the present.


Cessford, R. M. (2019). Tuberculosis in black and white : using pre-antibiotic casefiles and radiographs to explore tuberculosis in children. (Thesis). University of Hull. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Jun 10, 2020
Publicly Available Date Feb 23, 2023
Keywords History
Public URL
Additional Information Department of History
Award Date Mar 1, 2019


Thesis (15.1 Mb)

Copyright Statement
© 2019 Cessford, Rebecca Marie. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

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