1st Edition

GPs, Politics and Medical Professional Protest in Britain, 1880–1948

By Chris Locke Copyright 2024

    This book charts the journey of British General Practitioners (GPs) towards professional self-realisation through the development of a political consciousness manifested in a series of bruising encounters with government.

    GPs are an essential part of the social fabric of modern Britain but as a group have always felt undervalued, clashing with successive governments over the terms on which they offered their services to the public. Explaining the background to these disputes and the motives of GPs from a sociological perspective, this research casts new light on some defining moments in the creation of the modern British state, from National Health Insurance to the National Health Service, and the history of the British medical profession. It examines these events from the point of view of the professionals intimately involved in and affected by them, using both established sources, like Ministry of Health records, an in-depth analysis of rarely studied records of professional bodies, and previously unresearched archive material. The result is a fascinating account of conflict and cooperation, and of heroic, and less-than-heroic, defiance of political authority, involving interactions between complex personalities and competing ideologies.

    Scholarly yet readable, this book will be of interest to the general reader as much as to medical practitioners and historians.

    1. Introduction  2. An Uncertain Profession: GPs’ Struggle for Identity and Status in the Nineteenth Century  3. Professional Representation: ‘The Battle of the Clubs’ and the Fight for Autonomy, 1880-1911  4. ‘The Political Doctor is Now Born’: Lloyd George and the Doctors’ Revolt, 1911-1913  5. Inauspicious Beginnings: Medical Trade Unionism, the Great War, and Early Attempts at Bargained Corporatism, 1913-1919  6. ‘Statutory Bodies with Martial Attitudes’: Local Medical and Panel Committees, 1913-1939  7. ‘Black-coated Bolshevists’: The Ministry of Health, Political Brinkmanship and the ‘Ideologies of Class’, 1919-1926  8. The Consolidation of National Health Insurance: Administration, ‘Red Tape’, and the Economics of Contract Practice, 1926-1939  9. Parallel Developments: GPs and the ‘Mixed Economy of Care’, 1914-1948  10. Utopian Visions: Interwar Debates about the Future of Health Services, 1920-1939  11. For Victory and Health: The Second World War, the Beveridge Report, and the Coming of the NHS, 1939-1945  12. Facing the Future? Bevan, the BMA and the Ghost of Conflicts Past, 1945-1948  Conclusion: Assessing GPs’ Political Activities and their Context  Epilogue: The Legacy of Medical Professional Protest


    Chris Locke is currently an honorary research fellow in the Department of History at the University of Sheffield. With postgraduate degrees in History and Law, he developed his interest in medical politics during a thirty-year career advising medical practitioners on contractual and policy matters.