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'Inspector of Nuisances' to 'Environmental Health Practitioner': a case study of title change in the professionalisation process

Norman Parkinson

King’s College London, Department of Education and Professional Studies, School of Social Science and Public Policy

Correspondence: Norman Parkinson, King's College London, Department of Education and Professional Studies, School of Social Science and Public Policy, Franklin-Wilkins Building, 150 Stamford Street, London SE1 9NH. Email: norman.parkinson@kcl.ac.uk Tel: 0207 848 8701 (email is the preferred correspondence medium)

Abstract

Drawing upon archival research, this paper contributes to the professional history of the environmental health practitioner by exploring how, over 150 years, the designation ‘Inspector of Nuisances’ successively changed to ‘Sanitary Inspector’; back to ‘Inspector of Nuisances’; then ‘Sanitary Inspector’ again (at first only in London); ‘Public Health Inspector’, and ‘Environmental Health Officer’ to today’s ‘Environmental Health Practitioner’. Few occupations can have endured so many changes. The first two changes were not influenced by the inspectors, but the subsequent changes were junctures in the inspectors’ professionalisation project as they pursued an occupational designation that accurately conveyed their full role and function. Title change became a battlefield for boundaries and power as the medical officers of health (MOHs) sought to sustain their occupational dominance, while the employing local authorities attempted to suppress the status and thereby the salaries of the inspectors.

Key words: Inspector of Nuisances, Sanitary Inspector, Public Health Inspector, Environmental Health Officer, Environmental Health Practitioner, medical dominance. 

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