British Social Hygiene Council

  • British Social Hygiene Council
20th century
  • Archives and manuscripts

About this work


Founded 1914 as the National Council for Combatting Venereal Diseases (name changed in 1925).

Minutes of Council, Annual and Executive meetings, and other committees, sub-committees, standing committees and advisory boards, 1914-1957; also London and Home Counties Branch/Committee minutes, 1917-1940; a few financial records, 1942-1952; and journal Health and Empire, 1926-1940; pamphlets and similar literature of the NCCVD and related organisations, 1913-1918, n.d..


20th century

Physical description

45 boxes, 1 outsize box


Summary List

A : Business, Council, AGM and Executive Committee Minutes

B : Military/Services/Imperial and International Committee and sub-committees

C : Propaganda Committee and sub-committee

D : Medical Committee/Medical Advisory Board and sub-committees

E : Literature committee

F: Social Hygiene/Social Implications of VD Committee and sub-committees

G: Other sub-committees, advisory boards and standing committees

H : London and Homes Counties Branch/London Committee

J: Financial/Miscellaneous

K: Health and Empire

L : Pamphlets, etc of the NCCVD and other bodies

Acquisition note

These records were transferred from the Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine, Oxford to the Contemporary Medical Archives Centre in July 1996, with a subsequent accession of the volumes of Health and Empire in October 1997. It would appear that these archives were originally placed in the Oxford Unit through the activities of Dr Joan Austoker, a former Fellow at the Unit, who did some research on the NCCVD/BSHC. At the time of that transfer the office of the BSHC was located in the basement of 69 Eccleston Square, London SW1, the then headquarters of the Eugenics Society.

Biographical note

The National Council for Combatting Venereal Diseases was established as a result of the appointment of a Royal Commission on Venereal Diseases in 1913. A number of members of the commission and others concerned about the problem of sexually transmitted diseases came together to set up this Council, which was concerned with propaganda and education as well as the investigation of the problem. A leading motivating figure who continued to be a major figure in the Council's activities was Mrs Sybil Neville Rolfe (formerly Gotto). In 1917 as a result of the recommendations of the Royal Commission the NCCVD was given the task of conducting the educational and propaganda work deemed desirable by the Commission, with funding from central government. In 1929 this funding was devolved to local authorities by the Local Government Act of that year, but although local authorities were supposed to undertake educational work as well as the treatment of venereal diseases not all of them contributed to the work of the British Social Hygiene Council as it had become known. The resulting financial stringency had a serious effect on the Council and its work and it does not seem to have managed to find sources of funding equivalent to the amounts it received from the Ministry during the 1920s.

The archive is very far from being complete. It is predominantly the minutes which survive, with a little correspondence and other papers which had been inserted into the volumes, a few financial records from the later period of the Council's activities, and an incomplete set of the new series of the journal Health and Empire, 1926-1940. There are some noticeable gaps even among the surviving minutes: no minutes of the Financial Comittee survive, there are no records of the early Civilian Committee which was the counterpart of the Military Committee, and there were over one hundred branches of which only the records of the London and Home Counties Branch are represented here, probably because it was reconstituted as a Committee of the Council in 1922.

In spite of its lacunae this is an important collection of a body which played a significant public role in the determination of policy on venereal disease control, the provision of facilities for its treatment, and in particular for the dissemination of propaganda and public health education in this field. As a concomitant of the latter task it became a leading provider of sex education and the teaching of biology, and training for teachers and others for this purpose. The change of name in 1925 reflected the Council's perception of its wider remit in the promotion of 'social hygiene' in the broader sense. There was a strong overseas and imperial dimension to its work, and port welfare and the Mercantile Marine were particular objects of concern. A glance at the various committees, subcommittees, advisory boards, joint standing committees, etc, indicates the range of interests of the Council.


1913 Setting up of Royal Commission on Venereal Diseases

1914 Establishment of the National Council for Combatting Venereal Diseases

Military and Civil, and Pamphlet, sub-committees set up

1915 Small library set up

1916 Committees set up to deal with particular aspects of the Council's interests:

Propaganda, Medical, Military, Literature, and Finance

Affiliation of local branches, beginning with Liverpool

1917 Parliamentary Committee set up

Glasgow - first Scottish branch - affiliated

Probation Officers Committee

South African Branch set up

NCCVD refusal to recommend prophylaxis rather than early treatment

Government Orders in Council implement the recommendations of the Royal Commission

1919 91 branches in existence, 79 in England and Wales, 4 in Scotland, 1 in Ireland and 4 overseas

Grant of £20,000 by the Ministry of Health to undertake publicity and propaganda in the VD prevention field

The National Society for the Prevention of VD splits off following disgreement over the relative merits of early treatment and preventive prophylaxis

1920 Library and Records Department established

'Welfare Library' packets of NCCVD pamphlets distributed via W H Smith

1921 Colonial Commissions (Far East and West Indies) set up in liaison with the Colonial Office

Committee set up to enquire into the Manchester Ablution Centres

First series of journal Health and Empire commences publication

1922 Council incorporated

GMC issues new regulations on the instruction of medical students about venereal diseases

The Government appoints the Trevethin Committee to .stigate the working of the system set up in 1917 and to consider questions of prevention

Education Enquiry Committee set up

1923 Ministry of Health grants of £6600 for propaganda and £1700 for administration, £500 received from London County Council for propaganda purposes

Union Internationale Contre le Peril Venerien formed with the NCCVD as a founder member

The NCCVD accepts the Trevethin Report (which rejects recommendations about prophylaxis)

1924 Imperial Social Hygiene Congress organised in conjunction with the British Empire Exhibition

India Commission organised along the lines of the earlier Colonial Commissions

Projected fusion of NCCVD and NSPVD (does not happen)

Social Hygiene (Advisory) Committee set up

Appointment of Col L W Harrison as liaison between the Ministry of Health and the NCCVD

Mrs Neville Rolfe's tour of USA and Canada

A small Medical Committee designated to deal with routine enquiries, and a larger Medical Advisory Board to deal with tactical questions

1925 Name changed to reflect its growing role in teaching the teachers (and others)

2nd Imperial Social Hygiene Congress

Conferences with representative for India and for Crown Colonies

Memorandum issued on the desirability of introducing more biological teaching into schools

Summer School held in Oxford, July

1926 New series of Health and Empire unaugurated

Subcommittee appointed to draw up schemes for research work on a cure for gonorrhoea, for submission to the Medical Research Council

Session on congenital syphilis at Conference on Mother and Child Welfare

Proposed training courses for social workers approved

1927 3rd Imperial Social Hygiene Conference

1928 Joint conference held with the Board of Studies for the Preparation of Missionaries on Moral Hygiene in the Missionary Field

1929 Local Government Act

Ministry of Health funding to BSHC 1929/30 £12,000; running costs £13,500 per annum; capital costs £2-3000 per annum

Creation of Quota Fund from Local Authorities via Ministry of Health, at a rate of 3-5 shillings annually per 1000 of population (not all authorities contribute)

1929-1942 BSHC raises over £63,000 in voluntary contributions

1930 Conference on Education for Marriage

Appeal Committee set up

1931 Financial stringency measures: reduction of Headquarters staff, salary cuts, curtailment of local authorities programme, reduction of expenditure from voluntary funds.

BBC appeal

Preparation for Marriage subcommittee set up

1933 Educational Advisory Board established

1935 Advisory Board on the Welfare of Children in Residential Homes set up

Biology: A Journal for Schools and Teachers founded by the Education Advisory Board of the BSHC

1937 Subcommittee set up on compulsory notification of VD

Commission on Social Hygiene in Malta

Marriage Guidance Committee of BSHC becomes an independent Marriage Guidance Council

1938 Preparations for war conditions

1940 War Problems Committee set up

BBC Appeal

Conference re Health Education in Air Raid Shelters

1941 Discussions with the Ministry of Health about the role and funding of the BSHC

1942 CCHE takes over the work of the BSHC under the Ministry of Health Quota Grant from Local Authorities; BSHC to retain its international and colonial and port welfare work, and give attention to 'the application of... social biology to family and personal problems' (healthy marriage, family stability, juvenile delinquency, population problems)

Health and Empire retitled The Health Education Journal and its publication taken over by the CCHE

Establishment of a Social Implications of VD subcommittee, Social Biology Board, Population Advisory Board and Psychology Investigation Committee

Psychology Conference held

London Committee ceases to exist; Scottish Committee suspended

Medical Advisory Board dissolved; Propaganda Consultative Committee ceases

Social Hygiene Committee reformed to deal with social implications of VD, etc, also Port Welfare and Mercantile Marine

Biology published directly by the Council

1943 Literature Subcommittee set up

Newcastle Experimental VD Scheme

Title of Biology changed to Biology and Human Affairs and becomes the official journal of the BSHC

1948 Joint Biology Committee emerged from meetings of representatives of the organisations interested in biology and education

Related material

At Wellcome Collection:

For other related collections see the Sources Leaflet 'Sexually Transmitted Diseases'. Some material on the BSHC's Commission on Social Hygiene in Malta can be found in GC/193, the papers of Dr Letitia Fairfield.

Location of duplicates

A photograph of SA/BSH/G.2/1, the minutes of the 21 April 1920 meeting of the Colonial Commissions Committee, is held by Wellcome Images at L0041592


The catalogue is available on microfiche via the National Inventory of Documentary Sources (NIDS).

Permanent link


Accession number

  • 645
  • 735
  • 1117