Douglas M. Haynes
Department of History
University of California, Irvine

"British Imperialism in the Making of Victorian Medicine"

The story of the development of the modern British medical profession has been an insular affair. At least, this is the inescapable conclusion from the scholarly literature on British medicine. In light of the growth of Britain's territorial possessions and its commercial hegemony in the world, the absence of the Victorian empire from the history of British medicine is not just puzzling, but plain wrong. In the brief compass of this paper, I will sketch out the multifaceted impact of British imperialism in the making of Victorian medicine. At a minimum, the primary care needs of imperial personnel and colonial charges in the dependent generated a constant demand for practitioners in a chronically underemployed domestic profession. Similarly, the colonies of white settlement provided new markets for both the cultivation and expansion of fee-based regular medicine. Further, the empire helped to constitute the political and social contours of British medicine. It not only furnished a political space for defining the scope of the normative authority of British medicine. The representation of British medicine in the empire in the medical press also provided a cultural space for defining the identity of practitioners and place of medicine within Victorian society itself.