Avoiding ‘the faddlings of Dr Choake’
The professionalisation of medicine in Poldark
in Diagnosing history
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The BBC television series Poldark (2015–2019) is an adaptation of Winston Graham’s novels about a Cornish family that begins as the main character, Ross Poldark (Aidan Turner), returns from the American Revolutionary War. Set between 1783 and 1802, the narrative occurs at a time when the medical profession was beginning to establish itself. The Mammoth Screen production of Poldark is adapted for television by Debbie Horsfield, who combines several medical storylines and physicians into the character of Dr Dwight Enys (Luke Norris).

This chapter begins by outlining the dominant health care practices and beliefs of the time, then considers significant medical stories over the five seasons of Poldark which indicate that Enys is at the vanguard of change in the medical profession of the period. The medical and other issues Enys encounters illustrate the class, gender, and social concerns of the era. He compares favourably with contemporary doctors in his search for medical knowledge, his extensive skills and experience, his good bedside manner, upstanding character, teaching role, and subject specialism. By analysing the storylines, it is apparent that Enys is represented as a metonymic sign for the professionalisation of medicine and the emergence of the consultant.

Diagnosing history

Medicine in television period drama


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