Fit to Practice

Fit to Practice

Empire, Race, Gender, and the Making of British Medicine, 1850-1980

Douglas M. Haynes

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Traces the history of the British General Medical Council to reveal the persistence of hierarchies of gender, national identity, and race in determining who was fit to practice British medicine.
Fit to Practice proposes a new narrative of the making of the modern British medical profession, situating it in relation to the imperatives and tensions of national and imperial interests. The narrative is interwoven with the institutional history of the General Medical Council (GMC), the main regulatory body of the medical profession. The GMC's management of the medical register from 1858 to 1980 offers important insight into the political underpinning of the profession, particularly when it came to regulating who was fit to practice medicine, under what conditions, and where. Technically, admission to the British medical register endowed all doctors with common rights and privileges. Yet the differential treatment of women in the nineteenth century, Jewish medical refugees during World War II, and Indian doctors both before and after decolonization reveals the persistence of hierarchies of gender, national identity, and race in determining who was fit to practice British medicine.

Part 1 of the book, which spans from 1858 to 1948, focuses on the transformation of the British Empire from a destination for the surplus production of domestic medical graduates to a critical source of medical labor for Britain during wartime. Part 2 examines the postwar causes and consequences of the unprecedented globalization of the domestic profession.

Douglas M. Haynes is Professor of History at the University of California, Irvine.

Table of Contents

Mediating Nation and Empire in the Political Landscape of British Medicine in the World, 1858-86
Expanding the Boundaries of British Medicine to Foreign and Colonial Doctors, 1886-1919
Autonomy and Control: Managing British Medicine in the Age of Decolonization, 1919-30
The International Crisis of World War II and the Differential Treatment of Overseas-Trained Doctors, 1933-48
From Asset to Liability: Overseas Doctors of Color in the United Kingdom, 1955-70
Managing the Political Problem of the Registration of Overseas Doctors, 1971-73
Redefining Access to the Medical Register for Overseas Medical Graduates, 1972-75
Managing a Globalized Workforce within the National Boundaries of British Medicine, 1975
Conclusion: Overseas Doctors Needed, but Not Wanted


Fit to Practice offers a compelling historical study on how policies and practices of the British medical profession developed to exclude, include, and manage people under the empire and its national identity: domestic and overseas doctors, doctors of color, women, and the colonial subjects. . . . Readers who are interested in the historical roles of medicine and medical doctors in the British Empire should find Haynes' work to be thorough and deeply engrossing. WATERMARK

Haynes' style is clear and his arguments well presented. BRITISH SOCIETY FOR THE HISTORY OF MEDICINE

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