The Guardian of Life and Health. The creation of a welfare municipality in Amsterdam, 1919-1937.
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In this thesis, a case is made for the use of a historiographical concept that helps describe Dutch society in the interwar years. This concept is the welfare municipality, a supplement to the well-known and often used idea of the welfare state. This notion of the welfare municipality attempts to fill a gap in Dutch literature regarding the creation of the welfare state after the Second World War. The welfare state did not emerge out of a clear blue sky but should instead be partially attributed to the municipalities that experimented with welfare organization in the two decades before the war. By taking a new perspective, this thesis wants to complement existing literature. Focusing on the philosophy and mentality behind municipal welfare organization, this thesis concludes that the interwar municipality felt increasingly responsible for the general wellbeing of its citizens, slowly becoming the ‘guardian of life and health’ by appropriating and creating welfare services. As such, the municipality slowly became the center around which all societal welfare was organized. In Amsterdam, one individual symbolizes the welfare municipality, and that was Louis Heijermans, director of the Amsterdam Municipal Medical & Health Service. His principles for a long life in good health function as useful appellations for explicating the idea of the welfare municipality.