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 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/