Medical misadventure in an age of professionalisation, 1780–1890

Author: Alannah Tomkins

Victorian medical men could suffer numerous setbacks on their individual paths to professionalisation, and Thomas Elkanah Hoyle's career offers a telling exemplar. This book addresses a range of the financial, professional, and personal challenges that faced and sometimes defeated the aspiring medical men of England and Wales. Spanning the decades 1780-1890, from the publication of the first medical directory to the second Medical Registration Act, it considers their careers in England and Wales, and in the Indian Medical Service. The book questions the existing picture of broad and rising medical prosperity across the nineteenth century to consider the men who did not keep up with professionalising trends. Financial difficulty was widespread in medical practice, and while there are only a few who underwent bankruptcy or insolvency identified among medical suicides, the fear of financial failure could prove a powerful motive for self-destruction. The book unpicks the life stories of men such as Henry Edwards, who could not sustain a professional persona of disinterested expertise. In doing so it uncovers the trials of the medical marketplace and the pressures of medical masculinity. The book also considers charges against practitioners that entailed their neglect, incompetence or questionable practice which occasioned a threat to patients' lives. The occurrence and reporting of violent crime by medical men, specifically serious sexual assault and murder is also discussed. A tiny proportion of medical practitioners also experienced life as a patient in an asylum.

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