Medicine & Disease

Since it was founded in 1948, the issue of how Britons have laughed with – or at – the NHS reveals much about changes in society.

Wheelchair of Sir Thomas Fairfax, parliamentarian commander-in-chief

The Civil Wars of the 17th century prompted pioneering medical care and welfare, provided by the state not just for soldiers but for the widows and children they left behind, as Eric Gruber von Arni and Andrew Hopper show.

The belief that a king’s laying on of hands could cure the disfiguring disease of scrofula gained new heights of popularity during the Restoration, as Stephen Brogan explains.

Doctor derailed: a portrait of Brown-Séquard, c.1880

The career of the brilliant physiologist Brown-Séquard is a reminder of the perils of scientific innovation.

Epidemics spread mistrust, as communities seek to blame their plight on outsiders or those at the margins of society. Yet the historical record reveals that outbreaks are more likely to bring people together than force them apart.

Private pain: draining fluid from a hydrocele of the scrotum. Engraving by Frederik Dekkers. Dutch, 1694.

Men’s awkwardness when talking about their bodies, especially sexual health, has changed little since the 17th century. Jennifer Evans looks into the private worries of men and their doctors.

Shelling the Duckboards by Paul Nash, from British Artists at the Front, 1918.

‘Shell shock’ is associated in particular with the First World War. Stuart M. Archer recounts the often brutal treatment meted out to sufferers of the condition and looks at how use of the term fell into disrepute. 

Elizabeth Garrett Anderson passed her medical exams on 28 September 1865.

Cleansing spirit: Joseph Lister, 1896.

Joseph Lister's medical technique was first performed on August 12th, 1865.

In 1562 the young monarch was cured of a dangerous attack of smallpox.