In the nineteenth century, medical practitioners in the West began to fasten their professional identity on the increasingly ‘scientific’ character of modern medicine. Medical societies, journals, and training programmes proliferated during this period as practice became more specialised. This process continued into the twentieth century, and new areas of expertise emerged in relation to the growing role of the state as a provider of medical care. This session will look at these developments predominantly in the British context, showing how relations between patients, practitioners, and the state changed from the mid-nineteenth century into the post-war period, defined by steadily increasing levels of regulation and standardisation. In examining these shifts, we will consider how the authority of biomedicine has been consolidated over time, and how not every profession within medicine has followed the same chronology or the identical course.
1. How has ‘professionalisation’ changed the nature of medical practice?
2. What role has the state played in the growth of professionalisation and biomedicine?
3. In what sense has medicine become more ‘scientific’ since the nineteenth century?
4. What role has gender played in the creation of medical professions?
5. What have been the limitations to the process of ‘professionalisation’?
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