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Medical men and the reforming impulse in Britain, 1832-56: Three studies

Rigby, John (1992) Medical men and the reforming impulse in Britain, 1832-56: Three studies. Masters by Research thesis, Murdoch University.

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The period between the 1832 reform of the British parliament and the implementation of the 1858 British Medical Act was one of social flux. The Reform Act itself, a carefully structured act of survival by a class all too aware of the possibility of a middle-class led revolution should the status quo be blatantly maintained, mollified middle-class activists while permitting upper-class control of the parliament for at least another four decades. But the impulse to reform did not stop with what Michael Brock calls 'The Great Reform Act'; on the contrary, it went on to encompass many other aspects of English life:- communication, the introduction and expansion of police forces, reform of municipal corporations, factories, education, and public health. It also saw great changes occurring within the medical profession and those services with which that profession serviced the public. Since the range and degree of medical reform activity during these years is too great to study adequately in a paper of this length, for these spanned a spectrum from medical corporations and medical education through public health and Poor Law Medical services to intramural interment and lunacy reform, this thesis will study three areas in which the impulse to reform involved medical practitioners in England.

First, the Provincial Medical and Surgical Association, which later became the British Medical Association, is studied with a view to noting how the association journal became the focal point for a factionalisation that almost destroyed the PMSA, but which led to the creation of a new journal and a new and stronger association that has survived until the present day. Second, the involvement of the PMSA in the struggle to reform the Poor Law Medical Service is studied, highlighting the altruistic and professional goals of the association and its eventual failure to achieve much in the way of reform for the medical practitioners serving the paupers of England. Finally, a study of lunacy reform will prove that the impulse to reform was much more than an associational policy, for the drive to reform the madhouses and mad doctors involved medical practitioners both individually and collectively - and, unlike the struggle to reform the PLMS, many lunacy reforms were achieved during the period 1832-1858.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters by Research)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Social Sciences and Psychology
Notes: Note to the author: If you would like to make your thesis openly available on Murdoch University Library's Research Repository, please contact: Thank you.
Supervisor(s): Durey, Michael
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