Call for Papers: International Conference: Medical Practice in Early Modern Britain in Comparative Perspective

Papers are invited for an international conference to be held at the University of Exeter (UK) on 4-6 September 2017, funded by the Wellcome Trust Senior Investigator Award for the project ‘The Medical World of Early Modern England, Wales and Ireland 1500-1715’ led by Professor Jonathan Barry and Dr Peter Elmer at Exeter (see the project website at This conference will consider the outputs from this project, in particular the database which has been created of more than 30,000 medical practitioners operating in the period, and the opportunities this offers for new research in the field. It will also consider comparative perspectives on early modern Britain, both spatially and temporally, and so welcomes papers from colleagues working on medical practice in other parts of Europe or its colonies, on other cultures (Islamic, Indian, Chinese etc) and also on the periods either side of our 1500-1715 focus, so that we can place the findings of the project in the widest possible context. Proposals for panels will be welcomed, but so will individual paper proposals, including from research students (for whom bursaries covering the cost of attendance will be available). Those attending will be given exclusive access in advance of the conference to research findings from the project database, which they will be encouraged to consider in their contributions, which we expect to be pre-circulated to encourage the highest level of focused debate during the conference. Senior scholars willing to act as commentators on papers are also encouraged to express an interest in this role, as well as in offering their own papers.
Major themes for consideration include the following:

  • Continuity and change in the character and scope of medical practice, including the impact of war and imperial expansion on pre-existing medical culture,
  • the influence of new ideas and/or persistence of established approaches across the period, as well as the significance of attempts at regulation.
  • Trends in education, training and career patterns, encompassing hereditary succession, patronage, apprenticeship and university study, and levels of provision in different regions and types of settlement.
  • The roles played by women, in popular and domestic medicine and beyond, and by other alternatives to orthodox male practitioners, and by the growth of new methods fro the production and sale of medicines.
  • The place of medicine within processes of social and cultural change in the British Isles more generally, and the wider parts played by medical practitioners in scientific, intellectual, political, military, confessional and other spheres.
  • The opportunities for comparative research across national boundaries, both in tracing the movement of medical practitioners and in comparing levels and types of medical provision in different cultures.

If you are interested in participating please send an email to Professor Jonathan Barry at, with an abstract of c. 200 words indicating the proposed topic of any paper or panel, preferably by 15 September 2016.

Working Paper number 5 now available – by Dr Margaret Pelling

We are pleased to announce the fifth in our series of Working Papers:
`The Life and Times of Dr Richard Frewin (1681-1761): Medicine in Oxford
in the Eighteenth Century’, by the late A. H. T. Robb-Smith. This was
originally the fifteenth Gideon de Laune lecture, given to the
Worshipful Society of Apothecaries of London in 1972. It has been edited
for publication, with a bibliography, by Margaret Pelling. Frewin was a
successful rather than a remarkable physician, and the value of
Robb-Smith’s work lies in its being about a provincial practitioner’s
career and interconnections with the university milieu around him. Much
is revealed about how the eighteenth-century university operated, its
personal politics and scandals, the failings of its medical faculty, and
how physicians of that date educated themselves and then tried to get on
in the world.

To see the paper, click on the ‘Working Papers’ tab above, and scroll down the list for a detailed synopsis, and link to a PDF of the papers itself.

Alun Withey.

New: Working Paper Number 4 – by Dr Peter Elmer

We are pleased to announce the latest in our series of working papers. This new paper, ‘East Anglia and the Hopkins Trials, 1645-1647: a County Guide’, by Dr Peter Elmer, offers a county by county gazetteer of seventeenth-century witch trials. It offers new perspectives on the role and significance of Matthew Hopkins, and locates the trials within the broader context of attempts by puritan minorities to rid the country of perceived enemies.

The link to the full paper can be found under the ‘working papers’ tab, by scrolling down the list.