Polish School of Medicine at the University of Edinburgh (1941-1949): a case study in the transnational history of Polish wartime migration to Great Britain
Item statusRestricted Access
Embargo end date28/06/2021
Palacz, Michal Adam
More than 400 Polish medical refugees were associated with the Polish School of Medicine (PSM) at the University of Edinburgh between 1941 and 1949. This dissertation argues that the history of the PSM can fully be understood only as a part of the refugees’ broader experience of impelled or forced migration during and immediately after the Second World War. The key findings of this case study demonstrate that the opportunity to study or work at the PSM enabled the majority of Polish exiles to overcome, to a varying extent, their refugee predicament, while medical qualifications, transferable skills and trans-cultural competency obtained in wartime Britain allowed them to pursue professional and academic careers in different countries of post-war settlement, thus in turn contributing to a global circulation of medical knowledge and practice, especially between the University of Edinburgh and Poland. This specific case study contributes to the existing knowledge of Polish wartime migration to Britain in three interrelated ways. Firstly, an overarching transnational approach is used to combine and transcend Polish and British scholarly perspectives on, respectively, emigration or immigration. Secondly, the conceptual insularity of the existing literature on the topic is challenged by analysing archival, published and digital sources pertaining to the PSM with the help of various theoretical models and concepts borrowed from forced migration and diaspora studies. Thirdly, the conventional historiography of Polish-British wartime relations is challenged by emphasising the genuinely global ramifications of the PSM’s history. By interpreting the history of the PSM with the help of different analytical tools, such as Kunz’s and Johansson’s models of refugee movement and Tweed’s theory of diasporic religion, this dissertation provides a conceptual blueprint for further research on Polish wartime migration to Britain. In turn, this case study contributes to the development of forced migration and diaspora studies not only by empirically testing the explanatory power of existing theoretical models, but also by suggesting possible new conceptual avenues, such as analysing the pre-existing trans-cultural experiences of both Polish medical refugees and their hosts at the University of Edinburgh, and adding to the ‘triadic relationship’ of diaspora, homeland and host society a fourth dimension, i.e. conflict and cooperation between different migrant or refugee communities within the same host society.