Date: March 22, 2023
The Bahrain Center for Strategic, International and Energy Studies (Derasat) published a bilingual study paper titled ‘Britain’s Victoria Memorial Hospital in Bahrain (1905-1948)’, by Derasat’s Executive Director Dr. Hamad Ebrahim Al-Abdulla, in which he examined the hospital’s history managed by the British Political Agency; a successful model of Bahraini-British cooperation in the first half of the twentieth century.
The paper presents an important chapter of Bahrain’s social and political history, and offers researchers a view of its social movement. The hospital – through its various locally-funded health services in a period of scarcity – played a role in developing modern medical services in Bahrain, as well as a greater role in Bahrain’s society due to its rare nature as a facility in the Arabian Gulf and a model for regional urban and civic living requirements.
Dr. Al-Abdulla focuses in his study on the details of founding the hospital, which reflected the keenness with which Bahrain’s leadership sought to establish modern facilities to serve citizens; the hospital’s journey through the difficult era within which both world wars occurred; its prosperous times providing citizens and residents with healthcare under the supervision of Dr. Ralph Holmes; and factors that led to its decline and closing by 1948.
Researching the history of Victoria Memorial Hospital included examining a wide array of primary sources, including reports, telegrams, and letters exchanged between the Government of Bahrain, the British Residency and Agency, and the hospital. These documents gave an idea on how the hospital operated, its key personnel, and major health challenges that Bahrain faced in the early twentieth century.
These documents were collected through the archives of the India Office Records kept in the British Library and the British National Archives, in addition to viewing the memoirs and diaries of several Bahraini and British public figures and diplomats. The process also utilized reviewing quarterly reports issued by the American Mission.
The study shows that, despite the enormous challenges the Victoria Memorial Hospital faced in its 43 years of service, it played a pivotal role in the development of modern health services in Bahrain, while Dr. Ralph Holmes’ personality left a positive impact on society. Her services were admired by all due to his personality, dedication and hard work, serving Bahrainis from all walks of life. However, this experiment witnessed its decline due to the lack of funding for the hospital and the competition it saw from other local and foreign medical facilities.
The study is available on the Derasat’s website and can also be viewed by scanning the provided QR code.