Ideas and Practices in the History of Medicine, 1650–1820: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Ideas and Practices in the History of Medicine, 1650–1820

1st Edition

By Adrian Wilson


276 pages

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Hardback: 9781409451563
pub: 2014-09-28
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Although articles in this volume fall into three thematic clusters, each of those groups exemplifies three general themes: micro-social processes; innovations and the question of continuity versus discontinuity; and the relationship between ideas and practice. Most of these essays touch upon, and some of them are exclusively concerned with, small scale social processes: e.g. the routines of the all-female early-modern childbirth ritual, the different ways that male practitioners were summoned to such occasions, the functioning of voluntary hospitals, the protocols underlying patient records. Such social practices are well worth studying as both the sites and drivers of larger-scale historical change. Whenever there comes into being something new - whether an institution (a hospital), a social practice (the summoning of men as midwives) or a concept (a new approach to disease) - the question arises as to its relationship with what went before. This concept resonates throughout these essays, but is most to the fore in the chapters on early Hanoverian London (which asks explanatory questions) and on Porter versus Foucault (who represent the extremes of continuity and discontinuity respectively). A couple of generations ago, the ’history of ideas’ was pursued largely without reference to practice; in recent times, the danger has appeared of the very reverse taking place. This book ranges across a broad spectrum in this respect, the emphasis being sometimes upon practice (Eleanor Willughby’s work as a midwife) and sometimes upon ideas (concepts of pleurisy across the centuries); but in every case there is at least the potential for relating the two to one another. None of these themes is specific to medical history; on the contrary, they are the bread-and-butter of historical reconstruction in general.

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction. Part 1 Childbirth and Midwifery: William Hunter and the varieties of man-midwifery; The ceremony of childbirth and its interpretation; A memorial of Eleanor Willughby, a seventeenth-century midwife. Part 2 Medical Institutions: The politics of medical improvement in early Hanoverian London; Conflict, consensus and charity: politics and the provincial voluntary hospitals in the eighteenth century; The Birmingham General Hospital and its public, 1765-79. Part 3 Medical Concepts and Practices: On the history of disease-concepts: the case of pleurisy; Porter versus Foucault on the ’birth of the clinic’. Index.

About the Author

Adrian Wilson is Senior Lecturer in History of Medicine at the University of Leeds, UK.

About the Series

Variorum Collected Studies

The first title in the Variorum Collected Studies series was published in 1970. Since then well over 1000 titles have appeared in the series, and it has established a well-earned international reputation for the publication of key research across a whole range of subjects within the fields of history.

The history of the medieval world remains central to the series, with Byzantine studies a particular speciality, but the range of titles extends from Hellenistic philosophy and the history of the Roman empire and early Christianity, through the Renaissance and Reformation, up to the 20th century. Islamic Studies forms another major strand as do the histories of science, technology and medicine.

Each title in the Variorum Collected Studies series brings together for the first time a selection of articles by a leading authority on a particular subject. These studies are reprinted from a vast range of learned journals, Festschrifts and conference proceedings. They make available research that is scattered, even inaccessible in all but the largest and most specialized libraries. With a new introduction and index, and often with new notes and previously unpublished material, they constitute an essential resource. 

For further information about contributing to the series please contact Michael Greenwood at

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / Modern / 19th Century
MEDICAL / History