Disease, professionalisation and research: creating a prison medical service in Victorian England
In the nineteenth century English prisons became places of punishment and reform, following the end of transportation (1853). These new institutions were officially nationalised in 1877 but it took some time to establish a coherent and functional system. The new prison service called for a new kind of professional medical service, which had to find its place within the prison system and medical establishment. This paper will provide an analysis of the emergence of the prison as one of the first nationalised health institutions in England. The prison has been over-looked as a place of medical research and practice largely thanks to the work of Foucault characterising the prisons as places of ‘discipline and punishment’ (1975). This paper will show that prisons were places of medical and psychiatric treatment and study as well as discipline and punishment. Using case studies of individual prison medical officers, it will be argued that medical officers contributed greatly to the character of the institution in enforcing discipline whilst advancing contemporary medicine and performing their duty of care.