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  • IHMC

In the first place the project would analyse the epidemiological dimensions of the malnutrition that the Spanish population suffered until the middle of the twentieth century and their evolution. In the second place, it would consider the public health policies which sought to resolve those deficiencies and the influence of the international health context in their development. In the third place it would explore the expert discourses of both the health professionals, on proper feeding practices, and those from the food industry which, within the framework the emergence of the consumer society, encouraged the purchases of specific food products. Finally we plan to analyse the interaction between these expert discourses and the lay discourses and practices in the context of the Spanish nutritional transition (1874-1975).

In the epidemiological nutritional analysis, in addition to the study of the statistics of mortality by causes associated with malnutrition, we would consider the information on the nutritional state of the population which for the last decades of the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century was collected in surveys such as those carried out by the Commission for Social Reform, or medical topographies. The latter provides ethnographic historical information on how the population fed itself. Together with the life histories which we plan to develop, this would enable us to understand the feeding practices of the population and to what extent they accepted the discourse of the experts.

We would also explore the main sources which sought to advise on proper eating; at school (domestic economy, domestic science, etc.), in industry (food hygiene) and at a general level (literature for women, cookery books, etc.). The project would moreover analyse some case studies on advertisements. We also plan to consider the informative activities and nutrition policies under Franco of the Feminine Section.

We would further explore the Social Service (part of the Feminine Section), which most women were required to undertake, Social Aid, the ‘At the service of Spain and Spanish children” program, with special attention to the child-care discourse and the work carried out by visiting nurses and the social nurses of the Phalange, the School of Bromatology of Madrid, the School Food Service (SEAN) and the Technical Office of Feeding and Nutrition of the Educational Program in Feeding and Nutrition (EDALNU) with the collaboration of FAO and UNICEF.

We would complete our research with an analysis of the sources on international policies against malnutrition and the scientific discourse on undernourishment developed in international forums. The project will improve historiographic knowledge of how the generalized malnutrition of the Spanish population was resolved and would contribute elements of reflection to help understand the undesired effects of the nutritional transition associated with overeating.

Start date: January / 2010.

End date: December / 2012.

Principal investigators: Bernabeu Mestre, Josep .

Participating researchers: Barona Vilar, Josep Lluís; Guillem Llobat, Ximo.

Funding agencies: Ministry of Science and Innovation.

Partners: University of Alicante

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