‘The transformation of medicine in early modern Britain’

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By | Early Medicine, Events and Visits


Frontispiece, Pierre Morel, The expert doctors dispensatory. London, 1657 (EPB 37572/A, Wellcome Library)

The next seminar in the 2013-14 History of Pre-Modern Medicine academic seminar series, will take place on Tuesday 4th February.

Details: Patrick Wallis (LSE)

The transformation of medicine in early modern Britain

“In this paper, I discuss evidence for changes in the use of medical care in early modern England, and situate this against other evidence of shifts in the consumption of commercial/professional medical assistance. The core of the discussion will centre on a new paper studying demand for commercial medical assistance in early modern England. In this, we use a new dataset of individuals’ medical debts at death between c.1670-c.1790 in southern England to measure their consumption of medical and nursing services. Levels of consumption of medical services were high in London by the 1680s, and remain relatively stable over the century. But we find rapid growth in the provinces, both in the likelihood that the dying used medical assistance, and in the sums they spent on it. Provincial medical demand converged to London levels by the mid-1700s. The structure of medical services also shifted, with an increase in ‘general practice’, particularly by apothecaries. Our findings suggest the expansion in medical services diffused from London, and was motivated by a shift in preferences, not wealth.” (The working paper is available as: Pirohakul & Wallis, Medical revolutions? (Economic History Working Paper No. 185, 2014)).


The seminar will take place in the Wellcome Trust, Gibbs Building, 215 Euston Road, NW1 2BE.  Doors open at 6pm prompt, the seminar will start at 6.15pm.

The seminar series is focused on pre-modern medicine, which we take to cover European and non-European history before the 20th century (antiquity, medieval and early modern history, some elements of 19th-century medicine).

Further details on the seminar series are available in a previous post.

Ross Macfarlane

Ross Macfarlane is the Research Engagement Officer at the Wellcome Library.

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