A History of McCords, Durban, 1890s-1970s
Julie Parle and Vanessa Noble


Occasional Publications imprint
The Natal Society Foundation.

Durban’s McCord Hospital, this book argues, is one of the most important hospitals of the twentieth century. Founded ‘for the Zulu’ in 1909 by American Christian missionaries, Dr James B. McCord and Margaret Mellen McCord, for more than a century it was a centre of affordable health care for the underprivileged of many faiths, cultures and political persuasions. It also pioneered the training of black nurses, midwives and doctors and was supported by prominent figures such as John L. Dube and Chief Albert Luthuli.

It initially faced, however, strong opposition from white factions in Durban and by the 1960s was directly targeted for closure by South African Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd himself. McCords survived in part because apartheid forces did not understand that for several generations and for many communities it had come to be a ‘people’s hospital’. This identity would help carry it through to the early twenty-first century with the conviction and courage, when necessary, to stand up against the State when its policies threatened the health of all South Africa’s people.
This is a history of the religious, health, medical and political contexts of Natal and South Africa from the late 1800s to the 1970s. There are many stories of important firsts and milestones, but what emerges is more than simply a straightforward tale of heroism and triumph. Instead, this book tells multiple stories of struggles, successes, failures, frustrations, sacrifices, and how, on occasion, difficult choices and compromises had to be made.

Julie Parle is Honorary Professor of History at the University of KwaZulu-Natal with publications on the histories of medicine, madness, witchcraft, hysteria, hospitals, gender, emotions, and archival ethics.

Vanessa Noble is a lecturer in Historical Studies at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. She has published on the histories of health and healing in South Africa.

Book details

Natal Society Foundation
Publication date:
15 February 2018
Paperback, section sewn
241 pp. illustrated with photographs
240 x 170 x 15 mm
Selling Price:



Editor and Indexer:
Christopher Merrett
Proof Reader:
Cathy Rich Munro
Design & layout:
Jo Marwick
Printed by:
CPW Printers, Pietermaritzburg

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