Peter Steere

DPhil in English Local History


The contributions of the Medical Officers of Health of Berkshire to the improvements in public health between 1872 and 1914

Research abstract

My thesis will examine the impact of Medical Officers of Health on the improvement in public health that occurred following the introduction of the mandatory appointment of Medical Officers of Health in 1872. This is an expansion from my MSc dissertation where I concentrated on two localities, Reading and Windsor, between 1885 and 1900, comparing the relationships that the Medical Officers of Health had with their local authorities and how those relationships, and the calibre of individuals involved, were crucial to public health, especially for the poorer classes. For the DPhil thesis I am building and expanding on this theme by undertaking a study of all the Medical Officers of Health in Berkshire. The Urban and Rural Sanitary Authorities that were created by the 1872 Act all appointed Medical Officers of Health and twelve of these districts came under the jurisdiction of one Medical Officer. It is clear from previous research that sanitary authorities did not always act in isolation: whereas some co-operated with others on public health projects, others refused to share resources for the common good. My thesis will provide a study covering all the Medical Officers of Health of Berkshire, the projects undertaken, whether championed by them or not, their diligence and enthusiasm or otherwise and to what extent they improved public health in their localities.


Professor Mark Harrison, Director of the Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine

Dr Margaret Simons


I began a serious interest in local history from 2009 when I enrolled on the Advanced Diploma in Local History, followed by the two year diploma in English Local History and then finishing in 2015 with an MSc in English Local History.

I am Membership Secretary of the Oxfordshire Architectural and Historical Society (OAHS, publisher of Oxonienisia),  I am also a member of local history societies in Oxfordshire and Berkshire and I am Chairman of the Marcham Society.


'The fortunes of Sandy Baptist Church in the later nineteenth century' in The Local Historian, Vol. 46, No.1 (January 2016).


'An Investigation into the Working Relationship between the Medical Officer of Health and the Local Council: the case for Reading and Windsor 1885-1900' in Southern History: a review of the history of Southern England, Vol. 39 (2017), pp 105-130

Research interests

Although my interests in history are wide ranging I have concentrated for the last three years on later nineteenth century social history, which will be my focus for some time to come.