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Professionalisation and Regulation (Elise Smith)

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 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.

Seminar Questions:

1. How has ‘professionalisation’ changed the nature of medical practice?

2. What role has the state played in the growth of biomedicine?

3. In what sense has medicine become more ‘scientific’ since the nineteenth century?


Jane Lewis, 'Providers, 'Consumers', the State and the Delivery of Health-care Services in Twentieth-Century Britain', in Andrew Wear, ed., Medicine in Society: Historical Essays (Cambridge, 1992), pp. 317-345. e-book

S.E.D. Shortt, ‘Physicians, Science, and Status: Issues in the Professionalization of Anglo-American Medicine in the Nineteenth Century’, Medical History, 27 (1983): 51-68. e-journal

Steve Sturdy and Roger Cooter, ‘Science, Scientific Management and the Transformation of Medicine in Britain c.1870-1950’, History of Science, 36 (1998): 421-466. e-journal

Helen Valier and CarstenTimmermann, ‘Clinical Trials and the Reorganization of Medical Research in post-Second World War Britain’, Medical History, 52 (2008): 493-510. e-journal

George Weisz, ‘The Emergence of Medical Specialization in the Nineteenth Century', Bulletin of the History of Medicine, 77 (2003): 536-74. e-journal

Further Readings:

J. C. Burham, ‘How the Concept of Profession Evolved in the Work of Historians of Medicine,’ Bulletin of the History of Medicine 70 (1996), 1-24.

Ian A. Burney. ‘The Politics of Particularism: Medicalization and Medical Reform in Nineteenth-Century Britain,’ in Roberta E. Bivins and John V. Pickstone (eds), Medicine, Madness and Social History: Essays in Honour of Roy Porter (Basingstoke, 2007), pp. 46-57.

W. F. Bynum, Science and the Practice of Medicine in the Nineteenth Century (Cambridge, 1994)

Ann Digby, Making a Medical Living: Doctors and Patients in the English Market for Medicine, 1720-1911 (Cambridge, 1994)

Irvine Loudon, Medical Care and the General Practitioner, 1750-1850 (Oxford, 1987)

Matthew Ramsey, Professional and Popular Medicine in France, 1770-1830: The Social World of Medical Practice (Cambridge, 2002)

Steve Sturdy, ‘Looking for Trouble: Medical Science and Clinical Practice in the Historiography of Modern Medicine,’ Social History of Medicine 24 (2011), 739-757

Keir Waddington, An Introduction to the Social History of Medicine (Basingstoke, 2011), ‘Ch. 3: Practitioners and Professionalization,’ pp. 166-188

George Weisz, Divide and Conquer: A Comparative History of Medical Specialization (Oxford, 2006)