Thesis (Ph.D)

Patient case records of the Royal Free Hospital, 1902-1912


This study has used patient case records of the Royal Free Hospital, London, to examine patient identity, agency, and experience, in relation to hospital treatment of the early twentieth century. The patient base was predominantly the young, lower working-class, but people of a wide variety of circumstances mixed on the wards. Patients used the hospital as a part of the mixed economy of healthcare, making consumer-like decisions at periods of ill-health as to where best to seek medical aid. The lifecycle of ill-health of the patients and their families has been examined according to the histories contained in the records. The frequency of infectious chest conditions stands out, which has raised issues relating to epidemiological transition hypotheses and the wider physical condition of the population during the period of this study. Hospital doctoring has been considered alongside the medical and surgical treatments afforded the patients, in order to understand the standard of care provided at the Royal Free in relation to that available in the wider medical market, and to reconstruct the patient experience of hospital treatment. Financial restraints and reluctance to abandon traditional remedies and techniques meant that it proved slow in adopting the new technologies of modern medicine. The familiarity of traditional medicine, however, would have made the patient experience less intimidating. Patient records are an under-used source, but they represent a significant aspect of hospital development and shared knowledge during a period when patients were attending multiple hospitals throughout their lives. The Royal Free has never before been the subject of an academic study, though its progressive attitude towards admission requirements, medical social work, and medical women, made it an important and influential voluntary institution of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Attached files


Cullen, Lynsey T

Oxford Brookes departments

Department of History, Philosophy and Religion
Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences


Year: 2011

© Cullen, Lynsey T
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