The history of medical missions is an epiphenomenon of the history of the medical profession. On the one hand they can be seen as a late growth in the missionary movement, and throughout the nineteenth century they required explanation and apology; on the other, they can be seen as present from the movement’s earliest days. After all, when William Carey sailed for India in 1793 his only colleague was a medical man; and a ‘surgeon’ was specifically included amongst the first party sent by the London Missionary Society to the Pacific in 1796. Indeed, generations of missionaries carried out a form of pillbox ministry, gravely administering draughts, lancing excrescences and proceeding by trial and error (‘We soon discovered the unfitness of calomel for African fevers’, observed the Rev. Hope Waddell of Calabar, ‘by its prostrating effect upon ourselves’), Some, like David Livingstone, studied medicine as part of their missionary training, without thereby becoming any special sort of missionary, or one whit less the minister of the Gospel that the ordinary missionary was assumed to be. The difference between this and the developed medical missions which were all but universal by the First World War was created less by developments in missionary thought than by developments in the medical profession.
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