Health in Pietermaritzburg (1838-2008) 

A history of urbanisation and disease in an African city 
Julie Dyer


Occasional Publications imprint
The Natal Society Foundation.



THIS IS A HISTORY of the health of the people of Pietermaritzburg, a developing city in Africa and capital of the province of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa.

The book covers a period of about 170 years: from a time when a few explorers of European extraction started to settle themselves in a rural southern African valley, through the process of building and establishing a colonial town, followed by an apartheid city, and then a large multiracial and democratically governed metropolis of over 600 000 people.

It shows how this process of creating and inhabiting a city changed people’s health, for better or worse; and looks at the impact of the built environment, the physical environment, the social and economic environment, and the policy and legal environment on health status.

The book examines the history of public health as affected by the process of urbanisation, combined with the peculiar form of social engineering that took place in South Africa, particularly during the Apartheid years.


photograph: Jack Dyer


Dr Julie Dyer studied medicine at the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom before coming out to South Africa and studying Public Health at the University of Natal.

She served as Medical Officer of Health for Pietermaritzburg from 1994 until 2005, during which she began her exhaustive study of the history of public health in KwaZulu-Natal’s capital city.


Book Details


  The Natal Society Foundation
Publication date:
  14 November 2012
  Hard-cover with dust jacket, thread-sewn, round back, with red and white head-bands
  385 pp, illustrated with tables, graphs, photographs
  17 cm × 24 cm × 3 cm
  978-0-992 17660-0
Selling price:


Editor and index compiler:
  Christopher Merrett
Assistant editors:
  Peter Croeser and Phila Mfundo Msimang
Design and lay-out:
  Jo Marwick
  Mthokozisi Chilli Zwane 
Printed and bound by:

Interpak Books, Pietermaritzburg


You can download the entire book (a 6 Megabyte PDF file) free of charge here: