Performing medicine

Medical culture and identity in provincial England, c.1760–1850

Author: Michael Brown

This book talks about late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century English medical culture, a study of what it meant to be a doctor and how this changed over time. It presents a brief overview of the social, economic and cultural landscape of late eighteenth-century York. Medical culture and identity in late eighteenth-century York took shape within a social landscape shaped by the values of gentility, polite sociability and civic belonging. The book examines the role of intellectual liberality, demonstrating how public displays of polite and 'ornamental' learning were central to the performance of medico-gentility. It explores the incipient demise of this culture. Through a close reading of a scandal which enveloped the York Lunatic Asylum, it also explores the ways in which medical identities founded upon gentility and politeness were critically undermined by the political and social factionalism. The book looks at medical involvement in the provincial scientific movement, examining how local medical men positioned themselves relative to the so-called 'march of intellect', the cultural and ideological alignment between science and social reform. It continues this analysis in relation to the cholera epidemic of 1832 and other medico-political activities. The book considers how the professional dominion over healthcare was forged by the dual processes of inclusion and exclusion. It discusses the foundation of the Medical School in 1834 against the trial, in the same year, of a local salesman for James Morison's 'Universal Vegetable Medicine'.

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