Policing boundaries
Quarantine and professional identity in mid nineteenth-century Britain
in Mediterranean Quarantines, 1750–1914
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By focusing on a particular group of British doctors, those practising with the Royal Navy, this chapter maintains that the collective identity of these physicians in the early nineteenth century was shaped by how they acquired their first professional experience in the Mediterranean. It was an established practice for navy doctors to spend the first years of their professional trajectory in the two key British possessions in the region: Gibraltar and Malta. There, they learned to regard quarantine as a useless measure – in conformity with dominant British anti-contagionism – despite the fact that it was systematically applied. Sustaining an opposite view was often incompatible with pursuing a career within the navy. At the same time, quarantine was also being used by the British medical press as a sort of “crash-test” to define what “professionalism” should mean in the medical corpus. The press highlighted the contradiction which existed between the theoretical medical views prevalent in Britain and the routine practices of navy doctors on site in the Mediterranean outposts, and exposed this as an example of the lack of professionalism.

Mediterranean Quarantines, 1750–1914

Space, identity and power


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