New Year, New… research topic

Happy New Year!

So, the time is upon us once again – adverts everywhere for the latest celebrity diet, queues to sign up at the gym and playing ‘dodge the jogger’ in Richmond Park – yes, it’s the cycle of ‘New Year, New You’ repeating once again.

I admit I am guilty of the same – my desk is piled with ambitious mountains of fruit and I am determinedly marching up stairs, glancing longingly at the lifts…

As we well know, this annual dive in to health and fitness is nothing new, and I have been searching for records that reflect this.

The idea came from one of my favourite images in the collection – ‘Lady cyclists riding down a hill’.

'Photograph group, lady cyclists riding down hill, (Sittingbourne)' COPY 1/435/62

Taken in 1898, the photograph appears in COPY 1, the original application forms for the registration of copyright at Stationers’ Hall. It is registered by Frederick Miller Ramell of Sittingbourne.

The National Archives’ collection is full of records relating to health and wellbeing. The concern and involvement of the state in the health and welfare of the nation has increased over the 20th century and as you might expect, there is a particularly large amount of information in the records from the war period. However, the Ministry of Information was prolific in its production of advice campaigns long afterwards.

One of the best is this ‘Seven rules of health’ in INF 13/194, with sound advice such as: ‘Clean underwear once a week’, or ‘Wash all over every day. It takes a bit of time but it’s worth it, and so refreshing’. The poster is undated, but appears to be from the 1940s or 1950s:

'The Seven Rules of Health' (undated) INF 13/194

Extracts from INF 13/194 (undated)

 Similarly, ‘What to eat and why’ is another eye-catching example of what was considered necessary to educate the public in:

'What to eat and why' (undated) INF 13/194

A pamphlet from 1977 entitled ‘Everyday fitness and health’ in AT 60/65 includes some particularly inspiring examples of safe exercise depending on your age:

Under 35, 35-50 and over 50, extract from 'Everyday fitness and health', 1977, AT 60/65

And finally, two sound pieces of advice from another poster in INF 13/194 to prepare you for the weather forecast for the coming weeks:

Extracts from INF 13/194 (undated)

(I’d be grateful if train passengers on my route home would pay particular attention to the right hand one!)


  1. David Matthew says:


    Many thanks. I quite agree about people not covering their mouths when coughing/sneezing. I thought the bit about ‘fresh air’ was a bit odd given the smog in Britain’s cities at the time.


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