Medicine in Modern Britain 1780-1950  book cover
1st Edition

Medicine in Modern Britain 1780-1950

ISBN 9781138784239
Published July 16, 2018 by Routledge
196 Pages

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Book Description

Medicine in Modern Britain 1780–1950 provides an introduction to the development of medicine – scientific and heterodox, domestic and professional – in Britain from the end of the early modern period and through modern times. Divided thematically, each chapter within this book addresses a different aspect of medicine, covering diseases, ideas, practices, institutions, practitioners and the state.

This book centres on an era of rapid and profound change in medicine and gives students all they need to establish a solid understanding of the history of medicine in Britain, by offering a clear and coherent narrative of the changes and continuities in medicine, including names, dates, events and ideas. Each aspect of medicine discussed within the book is explored and contextualised, providing an overview of the wider social and political background that surrounded them. The chapters are followed by a documents section, containing important primary sources to encourage students to engage with original material.

With a selection of images, tables, a who’s who of all the key people discussed and a glossary of terms, Medicine in Modern Britain 1780–1950 is essential reading for all students of the history of medicine in Britian.

Table of Contents

List of figures and tables


Who’s who

Part I

1. Introduction

Part II: Narrative

2. Disease in modern Britain

Disease and death

The epidemiological transition

Measuring morbidity

Why did patterns of disease change?

3. Medical ideas

The emergence of hospital medicine

Laboratory medicine

Laboratory and clinic

Beyond the biological

Heterodox medicine

4. Medical practices

The pursuit of health

Domestic medicine

Medical practitioners

Consuming medicine

5. Medical care in institutions

Voluntary hospitals and dispensaries

Poor Law hospitals

Fever hospitals and tuberculosis sanatoria

Hospitals and dispensaries in Ireland


6. Medical practitioners

Making a medical living

Excluding competitors


7. Health and the state

Sanitary reform

Public health


Government medical care

Part Three: Assessment

8. Medicine in modern Britain: change, continuity, variation

Part Four: Documents

Document 1. Description of fevers

Document 2. Victims of cholera

Document 3. The Spanish Flu

Document 4. The increase in cancer

Document 5. Variations in mortality

Document 6. The health of working class women

Document 7. The action of fever

Document 8. Pathological changes in the lung

Document 9. The technical language of medicine

Document 10. The physiology of the kidney

Document 11: The benefits of physiological research

Document 12. A holistic view of the body

Document 13: The benefits of exercise

Document 14. Health and sunlight

Document 15: Domestic remedies

Document 16: Patent medicines

Document 17. Hydropathic treatment

Document 18: Treatment of heart disease

Document 19. The experience of surgery

Document 20. An appeal for funds

Document 21. Rules from Huddersfield Infirmary

Document 22. Hospital design

Document 23. The patient’s experience

Document 24. Asylum design

Document 25: Medical training in London

Document 26. Setting up in practice

Document 27. Unity in the profession

Document 28. Opposition to the Colleges

Document 29. Opposition to homeopaths

Document 30. Opposition to women doctors

Document 31. Nurse training

Document 32. Insanitary conditions in cities

Document 33. Public health in central and local government

Document 34. Health education

Document 35 The work of the Medical Officer of Health

Document 36. The cause of infant mortality

Document 37. The new National Health Service



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Deborah Brunton was a senior lecturer in the History of Medicine at The Open University. Her previous publications include Health and Wellness in the Nineteenth Century (2014), The Politics of Vaccination. Practice and Policy in England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland, 1800–1874 (2008), Medicine Transformed: Health, Disease and Society in Europe 1800–1930 (2004) and Health, Disease and Society in Europe 1800–1930: A Sourcebook (2004).


'This easy to read and engaging book offers a comprehensive overview of the history of medicine in modern Britain, including the various approaches, sources and terminology used by medical historians. I enthusiastically recommend this book to students as an up-to-date introduction to the history of medicine that identifies geographical variations in British experiences of health and medicine, and that touches upon recent research themes such as ‘health’ and ‘domestic’ medicine'.

Kathryn Woods, University of Warwick, UK