The purpose of this paper is to bring together the history of war, the universities and the professions. It examines the case of dentistry in New South Wales, detailing its divided pre-war politics, the role of the university, the formation and work of the Dental Corps during the First World War, and the process of professionalization in the 1920s.
The paper draws on documentary and archival sources including those of the University of Sydney, contemporary newspapers, annual reports and publication of various dental associations, and on secondary sources.
The paper argues that both the war and the university were central to the professionalization of dentistry in New South Wales. The war transformed the expertise of dentists, shifted their social status and cemented their relationship with the university.
This study is the first to examine dentistry in the context of the histories of war, universities and professionalization. It highlights the need to re-evaluate the changing place of the professions in interwar Australia in the light both of the First World War and of the university’s involvement in it.
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