Monthly Archives: May 2017

Opening hours w/b 29 May 2017

Next week our opening hours are:

Monday: CLOSED for the Bank Holiday
Tuesday, Thursday, Friday: 2.15pm-5pm
Wednesday: 2pm-4.30pm

Don’t forget, while the Wellcome Unit is closed on the bank holiday, other Oxford libraries will be open as normal. You can find some history of medicine resources at the History Faculty Library, Old Bodleian Upper Reading Room and Radcliffe Science Library.

As always, please do get in touch with us if you would like to make a visit to the library. Have a really enjoyable bank holiday weekend.


Week 5 Seminar: Medical Reform in Jamaica

Medical Reform in Jamaica, 1826-43: imperial and colonial contexts

The next HSMT seminar of Trinity Term will take place at 16.00 on Monday 22nd May (5th Week) in the Lecture Theatre of the History Faculty on George Street. It will be delivered by Aaron Graham.

Aaron Graham is a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at UCL, having received his DPhil from the University of Oxford in 2012, and been a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at Jesus College, Oxford between 2012 and 2015. His current research analyses monetary policy, financial regulation and central banks in Britain, Ireland and colonies such as Australia, Canada, South Africa and the West Indies between 1783 and 1844, and how a transnational regulatory framework was built up between these years to help maintain this complex political, economic and monetary union. He is also carrying out a parallel study of state, slavery and society in Jamaica between 1660 and 1840, in order to establish the political and social roots and fiscal and military capacities of colonial state structures in this period. His first book looked at corruption, government and political partisanship in the early eighteenth century, a theme developed in other articles, and more recent publications will examine corruption, patriotism and loyalism in Britain and North America between 1754 and 1783.

This paper covers the battle in Jamaica between 1826 and 1843 for a College of Physicians and Surgeons that would license medical practitioners and regulate medical practice.  It will highlight how the radical ideas of metropolitan reformers such as Thomas Wakley for overhauling the medical practice in Britain spread overseas, and the difficulties that liberal supporters in Jamaica found putting them into practice.  In particular, the plan by the College to examine local candidates by viva and grant them licenses to practice was a liberal step that generated opposition from conservative doctors and planters in Jamaica, who worried that it would break down social and racial boundaries, and from the medical establishment in London, who saw it as a plot by Wakley and other reformers to break their own contested monopoly on licensing in England.   Imperial and colonial medical politics therefore intersected and interacted, to shape the flow of new practices between Britain and the wider world.

Relevant titles in the Wellcome Unit Library:


Poverty and life expectancy : the Jamaica paradox by James Riley (HB1322.35 J25 RIL 2005)
A multidisciplinary study reconstructing Jamaica’s rise from low to high life expectancy, and explaining how this was achieved. Riley looks at the inexpensive means used, such as the emphasis on schoolchildren and their parents learning to manage disease hazards.


Health and medicine in the circum-Caribbean, 1800-1968 by Juanita de Barros, Steven Palmer & David Wright (RA455 HEA 2009)
A collection of essays exploring the cultural and social domains of medical experience in the Caribbean, and considers the dynamics and tensions of power. It considers the perseverance of indigenous and popular medicine, as well as the rise of western medicine.


Mary Seacole : the charismatic black nurse who became a heroine of the Crimea by Jane Robinson (RT37.S43 ROB 2005)
A work exploring the life of Mary Seacole, the independent Jamaican doctress who combined the herbal remedies of her African ancestry with sound surgical techniques. She opened the ‘British Hotel’ in the Crimea, a hut supplying soldiers with food, clothing and medical care.


Launching global health : the Caribbean odyssey of the Rockefeller Foundation by Steven Palmer (RA441 PAL 2010)
This title examines the Rockefeller Foundation’s campaigns as a laboratory for discovering and testing the elements of a global health system for the twentieth century. Its programmes in treating diseases in Caribbean sites laid the foundation for international health initiatives.


Please come and ask library staff if you would like any help with locating resources, or conducting further research. We also welcome further suggestions for reading not included in this post.

Header image:
L0022113 Credit: Wellcome Library, London
Jamaica; 1821 after: Paolo Fumagalli
Published: [Dalla tipografia del dott. Giulio Ferrario],[Milan] : [1821]
Size: platemark 17.4 x 24 cm.; Collection: Iconographic Collections
Library reference no.: Iconographic Collection 2498733i
Full Bibliographic Record: Link to Wellcome Library Catalogue
Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0

Week 4 Seminar: Health, military service, and economic mobility of US Civil War soldiers

The next HSMT seminar of Trinity Term will take place at 16.00 on Monday 15th May (4th Week) in the Lecture Theatre of the History Faculty on George Street. It will be delivered by Chulhee Lee.

Lee is currently a Visiting Scholar at Wolfson College, Oxford, as well as being a professor of Seoul National University. His research interests are in economic history, labour and demographic economics, and the economics of ageing. His research has included work on the relationship between socioeconomic background, disease and mortality.

Lee’s book in progress, upon which this seminar is based, explores firstly how the experiences of US Civil War soldiers while in service were shaped by their socioeconomic backgrounds prior to enlistment, and secondly how wartime medical and military experiences influenced the post-service economic mobility of veterans. Prior exposure to unfavourable epidemiological environments reduced the chances of contracting and dying from disease among Union soldiers while in service. The different degree of immunity against pathogens is the most plausible explanation for the mortality differentials. Combat exposure, wounds and diseases suffered by Union veterans while in service diminished their wealth accumulation and geographic mobility, perhaps by lowering their physical productivity. The wartime experience of being deployed to distant regions increased veterans’ post-service geographic mobility, probably by offering them more information about other places and reducing psychological resistance to moving to a new territory. Unskilled recruits appointed as commissioned and non-commissioned officers and those assigned to white-collar military duties were more likely to move up to a white-collar occupation after service. The findings of the book suggest that the effects of military service during the Civil War on servicemen varied depending on their socioeconomic status prior to war, initial health condition, and luck. To some veterans, military service provided a valuable opportunity to master new skills, widen one’s perspective on the outside world, and build a new social network. To other soldiers, military service was a traumatic event that persistently damaged health and economic performance over the life course.

Relevant titles in the Wellcome Unit Library:


Marrow of tragedy : the health crisis of the American Civil War by Margaret Humphreys (E621 HUM 2013 and online)
A work examining the Civil War as the greatest health disaster the US has ever experienced, with governments poorly prepared for the sick and wounded, and the advancements in medicine and public health that were made during the war.


Medicines for the Union Army : the United States Army laboratories during the Civil War by George Smith (E621 SMI 2001)
Smith explores the evolution of the army’s medical department from competence to efficiency during the war, as the organisation and supply system grew to counter diseases such as malaria, typhoid fever and venereal diseases.


Learning from the wounded : the Civil War and the rise of American medical science by Shauna Devine (R151 DEV 2014)
A study of how Union army physicists rose to the medical challenges of a war in which nearly two-thirds of fatalities were caused by disease, leaving a lasting impact on medical practice owing to the methods of study and experimentation developed.


Years of change and suffering : modern perspectives on Civil War medicine by James Schmidt and Guy Hasegawa (E621 YEA 2009)
This title aims to correct the Hollywood myths of Civil War medicine, exploring how the sick and wounded were treated on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line, including amputations, diseases and wounds of the nervous system and new surgical techniques for injuries.


The irritable heart of soldiers and the origins of Anglo-American cardiology : the US Civil War (1861) to World War I (1918) by Charles Wooley (RC666.5 WOO 2002)
A work focusing on both the Civil War and World War 1, and the curious condition that incapacitated thousands of otherwise healthy troops. Characterised by chest pains, palpitations, breathlessness and fatigue, the ‘irritable heart of soldiers’ provoked much interest in soldiers’ hearts.

Journal articles

There are several of Lee’s published journal articles that are available to read through online library institutional access (login via SOLO first):

Please come and ask library staff if you would like any help with locating resources, or conducting further research. We also welcome further suggestions for reading not included in this post.

Header image:
V0015313 Credit: Wellcome Library, London
Return of wounded Confederate prisoners, under a flag of truce, during the American Civil War. Wood engraving.
Collection: Iconographic Collections
Library reference no.: ICV No 15623
Full Bibliographic Record Link to Wellcome Library Catalogue
Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 

Seminar: Distilling Household Medicine in Eighteenth-Century England

2017 Oxford Seminars in the History of Alchemy and Chemistry
(Seminars will be on 3 May, 10 May, 17 May and 14 June)











Wednesday 17 May – 15:00-17:00, Maison Francaise d’Oxford (2-10 Norham Rd, OX2 6SE)

18th Century Chemistry in Britain

Chair: John Perkins (Oxford Brookes)

Speaker: Katherine Allen (Oxford)

“Furnish Herself of Very Good Stills”: Distilling Household Medicine in Eighteenth-Century England

Speaker: John Christie (Oxford)

Make your Own Volcano: Early Modern Alum Production in Britain

The seminar is free of charge, and anyone with an interest in the history of alchemy, chemistry, medicine or the sciences is invited to attend. The format is two or three papers followed by a Questions & Answers session. Participants are also invited to join us for a drink afterwards, and/or dinner with the speakers. 

For more information, questions or directions to the venue, please feel free to contact Georgiana Hedesan at

And if you’d like to read up on the subject, here are a couple of suggestions for titles available in the Unit Library:

Come and talk to us if you’d like any help finding resources.