The medical world of early modern England, Wales and Ireland, c.1500-1715

This website was created as part of the project described below, which ran from 2012 to 2018. Since 2018 Prof. Barry and, in particular, Dr Elmer, have been adding further information to the database and creating a preliminary set of practitioner biographies, organised by county, some of which will be found on the ‘County Studies’ tab, along with related material.
We are now preparing to release the full database, which will employ a ‘wiki’ model to contain the biographies along with structed key data and the underlying information files, and will be fully searchable, as well as providing indexes of key categories. The exact timescale of this development depends on current funding applications: please check this site for updates.
If you would like to ask questions about practitioners covered by the project, or have information you would like to share with us, please email either J.Barry@ex.ac.uk (for general questions/comments) or P.W.Elmer@ex.ac.uk (for queries/information about specific practitioners). Please note that we are both now retired, so we may not respond immediately!

Original Project Outline

This project will develop a groundbreaking database with biographies of all medical practitioners active in England, Wales and Ireland c.1500-1715, which will then be used to produce the first all-round study of the nature and impact of medical practice in early modern Britain, to be published as a major monograph by a leading university press.

The database will build on a prototype already created by Dr Peter Elmer, a senior researcher on the project (which already includes much of the necessary coverage for England, and some material for Wales and Ireland), to which will be added information from existing databases of other scholars, notably Dr Margaret Pelling, and from family and local history groups. Research assistants with expertise in Welsh and Irish sources/languages will be employed to ensure full coverage of those countries.

The database (hosted initially by the Centre for Medical History (CMH) at Exeter) will be developed as a permanent online resource, linked to other existing online resources, with the facility for others to add to the database under controlled arrangements. The project researchers, together with other CMH staff (directed by Professor Barry), will analyse the data on medical practitioners to produce the first comprehensive analysis of early modern British medical practitioners. This will explore not only their education, career patterns and medical activities, but also their major contribution to science, the arts, business, religious and political thought, revealing the key contribution of medical practitioners to the revolutionary changes in Britains place in the world.

Research Questions

  • What, when and where were the major changes in the character and scope of medical practice in England, Wales and Ireland (hereafter EWI) 1500-1715?
  • What was the changing relationship between supply and demand in the provision of medical care by medical practitioners over the period?
  • How did the education and career patterns of medical practitioners vary, both over time and between types of community (including the three countries, regional and urban/rural differences), and how far did these reflect the traditional divisions of medicine (physic, surgery and pharmacy)?
  • What were the broader roles and impacts of medical practitioners within their communities, notably in intellectual, cultural and ideological developments and in causing socio-economic changes?

The Team

  • Professor Jonathan Barry – Principal Investigator
  • Dr Peter Elmer – Senior Research Fellow
  • Dr Alun Withey – Associate Research Fellow
  • Dr Justin Colson – Associate Research Fellow
  • Dr John Cunningham – Associate Research Fellow
  • Dr Ismini Pells – Associate Research Fellow