Making a Medical Living: Doctors and Patients in the English Market for Medicine, 1720-1911 / Edition 1

Hardcover (Print)
Buy New
Buy New from
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $50.10
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 70%)
Other sellers (Hardcover)
  • All (8) from $50.10   
  • New (4) from $140.00   
  • Used (4) from $50.10   


How did doctors make a living? Making a Medical Living explores the neglected socio-economic history of medical practice, beginning with the first voluntary hospital in 1720 and ending with national health insurance in 1911. It looks at private practice and how this was supplemented by public appointments. In this innovative study, Anne Digby makes use of new archival sources of information to produce a compelling picture of ordinary rather than elite doctors, and of the dynamics of provincial rather than metropolitan practice. From the mid-eighteenth century doctors travelled to see ordinary patients, developed specialisms and expanded institutions. Despite limitations in treatment, doctors raised demand for their services as illuminating case studies of women, children, the poor and the affluent show. But doctors did not limit their own numbers, and were largely unsuccessful in restricting competition from other practitioners, with the significant exception of women. Consequently, many GPs struggled to make a living by seeing numerous patients at low fees. Doctors' entrepreneurial activity thus helped shape English medicine into a distinctive pattern of general and specialist practice, and of public and private health care.

The book contains black-and-white illustrations.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"...Anne Digby brings an impressive grasp of the literature of medical history and the social history of medicine and an imaginative search for fresh sources. ...this is a delightfully written and appealing example of modern scholarly work." Journal of Economic History

"Now that the government is bent on reintroducing market principles into medicine, Anne Digby's original and informative analysis of the business of medicine before state intervention this century is especially timely. Drawing upon diaries, account books and other fascinating sources, she shows that traditional medical practices rarely corresponded to the neat-and-tidy hierarchical model set out in the old history books..." Roy Porter, New Scientist

"Anne Digby's valuable study does the profession a service in showing that it had more honour and conscience than could be expected from the conflicting demands of altruism and entrepreneurship." Anne Crowther, Times Literary Supplement

"Anne Digby's 'Making a Medical Living' is...a welcome and important book. It combines a synthesis of existing literature with much new research, especially in English provincial archives, to provide a richly detailed picture of how doctors made a living from the Georgian period until the National Insurance Act of 1911." Lisa Rosner, Albion

"Anne Digby's book is a solid, well-researched account of the English medical marketplace in the period between the founding of the first voluntary hospital and the inception of national health insurance....On the whole, this is a kindly book that leaves the reader feeling sympathy for the common run of doctors who invested much hard-won capital and many years of training in the effort to win a place in an overstocked and challenging profession." American Historical Review

"This is a thoroughly researched, solid, workmanlike volume that readers can look to with confidence. Certainly the book's most impressive feature is Digby's re-creation of the working lives of provincial doctors and their interactions with patients and colleagues. What is most refreshing is the author's open-minded point of view, steering clear of rigid orthodoxies, and letting the sources speak for themselves. Consequently we see medical practice as a job, and doctors, not as heroes or exploiters of humanity, but as reasonably decent people trying to make reasonably decent lives for themselves....Perhaps in future years Digby will use her well-honored research skills to further elucidate this fascinating and important topic." Judith Lewis, Journal of Social History

" Anne Digby reminds us that while physicians in the past treated patients, invented new medical theories, compounded medicines, and made discoveries about the human body, they also made a living...much of Digby's story is familiar to us - marginal men delivering babies, taking care of the mad, treating the poor, and praying for wealthy patients. However, by putting medical economics at the center of her tale, she forces all of us to see what we thought were familiar developments in a new and sharper light." Bull. Hist. Med.

Read More Show Less

Product Details

Table of Contents

List of illustrations
List of tables
Note on abbreviations
Introduction 1
Pt. I The professional structure of practice 9
1 Medical practitioners 11
2 The context of practice 39
3 Medical encounters 69
Pt. II The economic dimensions of practice 105
4 The creation of a surgical general practice 107
5 The GP and the goal of prosperity 135
6 Physicians 170
Pt. III Patients and doctors 197
7 Medicalisation and affluent patients 199
8 Office, altruism and poor patients 224
19 Expanding practice with women and child patients 254
Pt. IV Synthesis 297
Reflections 299
Select bibliography 317
Index of medical names 338
General index 341
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)