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While much is known about the leaders of the medical profession in the eighteenth century, little has been written about rank-and-file practitioners--the apothecaries, blood-letters, and herb-women--or about the patients they treated. Focusing on Bristol, the book examines how the poor gradually lost medical autonomy and authority over their bodies, as the city's hospital was transformed from a charity to a medical workplace by the contingencies of urban apprenticeship and changes in the structure of the city's medical occupations. As hospitals assumed the role of training surgeons and apothecaries, they fostered a new style of medicine that augmented medical authority, and which was inimical to patients, whose ability to interpret their own ailments and maintain some measure of autonomy was destroyed by the medical knowledge created and maintained by the hospital's educational function. The book details how poor and working-class patients chose among practitioners, how they used the new institution of the hospital, and how they utilized the Old Poor Law in times of need. It moves beyond heath-care provision to discuss how lay people of the time understood their bodies and how those beliefs came into conflict with the new order of medical practitioners.
Reviews & endorsements
"...unique in its focus on the provision of health care to the poorer inhabitants of eighteenth-century Bristol and area...." Doreen A. Evenden, Canadian Journal of HistorySee more reviews
"This brief review cannot do justice to the way in which Fissell skillfully draws together several analytical threads. Her discussions of the waxing power of surgeons, the social role of the Infirmary, and the corporal disenfranchisement of the poor are based on meticulous research and reflect an enviable command of the secondary literature. This produces a colorful tapestry of interpretations and meanings that reveals how the older fabric of medical pluralism unraveled." Mary Lindemann, American Historical Review
"Beautifully written, accessible, engaging, Mary Fissell's book is no specialist monograph but a skilful application of current debates which can be pressed with enthusiasm on students and the general reader alike." Margaret Pelling, The Times Higher Education Review
"...a significant contribution to the growing body of literature on the Georgian medical marketplace....fills an important gap in our understanding of health care in provincial England. It should be required reading for social and medical historians interested in the eighteenth century." Guenter B. Risse, Albion
"...an intriguing book which neatly sets medical history topsy-turvy." Richard T. Vann, Journal of Interdisciplinary History
"The strength of this work is its detail of the variety of medical practice in the eighteenth century and the story of the growing professionalization of the surgeon and physician. The lively anecdotal history of medicine in Bristol is not only entertaining, but is also illuminating for a time when competition for patients was vigorous, and medical ethics suffered." Deborah Wiggins, Journal of the History of Medicine
"...an important contribution to the flourishing field of the social history of medicine in both its intellectual and social contexts....The result is a series of fascinating insights into medical practice in a major eighteenth-century English city...a stimulating book...has greatly enhanced our understanding of early modern medicine." A.L. Beier, ISIS
"...a fine book, well written, muscularly argued and conceived....a fine contrbution to a young and vital historical discipline." Donna Andrew, Journal of Modern History
"...this text is an important source for understanding the complex content of English charity and medical care during the century that preceded the emergence of organized nursing...reveals complex eighteenth-century Bristol in an accessible and understandable manner, and it is rich with details that suggest further questions about the relationships among patients, medical practitioners, social institutions and charity...Also notable is the depth and breadth of the text's bibliography." Janna Dieckmann, Book Reviews
"This work adds to the prevailing wisdom that an important change occurred in the medical profession and medical practice around the middle of the eighteenth century. This book adds to our understanding of early modern medical institutions, while corroborating the work of others, notably Roy Porter, on the changing nature of medicine over the eighteenth century." The Eighteenth Century
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- Date Published: July 2002
- format: Paperback
- isbn: 9780521526937
- length: 284 pages
- dimensions: 229 x 153 x 17 mm
- weight: 0.559kg
- availability: Available
Table of Contents
List of tables, figures, and maps
2. Everyone their own physician
3. The marketplace of medicine
4. charity universal?
5. The client
6. The abdication of the governors
7. Surgeons and the medicalization of the hospital
8. The patient's perspective
9. The reform of popular medicine
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