Eighteenth Century

1/ Everyday Medicine in the Eighteenth Century

James Woodforde was a chap from the eighteenth century who kept a diary. He isn’t a key person from the course BUT we can use his diary entries to find out about the kinds of beliefs and treatments ordinary people were using.

For example, everyone that got sick in the Woodforde household, including the horse, was treated with bleeding. One person was bled 7 times in a bid to make them feel better. This shows that even at this time people still believed in the theory of the four humours, particularly the idea of balance in the body. Some of the other treatments revolved around natural remedies such as sticking a roasted onion in your ear and drinking copious amounts of rum. I suppose these activities would at least make you feel better…?! Everyday medical treatments also included supernatural beliefs and some superstition thrown in for good measure, so prayer was a common treatment followed by rubbing yourself with the tail of a black cat.

In summary: 4 humours, bleeding, natural remedies, God, religion, prayer, superstition – all of which are CONTINUITIES from previous eras

2/ Small pox

This was the killer disease of the eighteenth century. 30-40% of people who caught it died. Those that didn’t die were left severely disfigured from the pits and scars the pustules had left behind.

3/ Lady Mary Wortley Montague and Immunisation

Lady Mary was a posh bird who was wealthy enough to go on what were known as grand tours.

She travelled to Turkey and whilst there noticed that people were using an ancient Chinese method to cure small pox. The method involved giving a patient a mild does of small pox – i.e. putting a tiny bit of small pox pus in a cut on a healthy person, so that they would be protected against a stronger attack. To an extent this worked and she felt confident enough to use it on her children. She brought the idea back to England and sold the idea to doctors she knew. They would then charge high fees to people to inoculate them against the deadly disease. Sadly the inoculation wasn’t entirely safe. Dosage couldn’t be measured properly, so many people were given a strong dose and either died from a full blown case of small pox, or, they became carriers and infected those around them.

Inoculation = giving a mild dose of the the disease you are trying to protect people from

Vaccination = giving a dose of a similar disease to the one you are protecting people from

3/ Edward Jenner


To get a C grade you need to be able to describe the work of Jenner using specific, detailed examples.

Jenner was a doctor who moved to Gloucester. He couldn’t understand why nobody wanted the immunisations he was offering.

Local farmers explained to Jenner that most people in the area didn’t catch small pox because they’d already had cow pox. There was no evidence or proof to back this up, but it seemed to be an accepted truth by the locals.

Jenner decided to investigate. He experimented on an 8 year old orphan boy called James Phipps. Jenner took pus from a cow pox sore on a milkmaid and inserted it into a cut on the boy’s skin. The boy developed cow pox and recovered.

Next came the biggest test. According to local ideas Phipps should no longer be able to catch small pox. Jenner inserted pus from a small pox scab into the boy to test this out. Phipps did not catch small pox. Jenner repeated the experiment 23 times and concluded that cow pox protected against small pox.

 “The cowpox protects the human constitution from the infection of smallpox”

He called his technique vaccination because the Latin word for cow is vacca.


To get a B grade you need to explain what impact Jenner had on medicine and for an A-A* weigh up the EXTENT of his impact (how much)


  • Jenner worked using scientific methods and conducted many tests and experiments.
  • Jenner had pamphlets printed for other scientists to read; the pamphlets described his experiments very clearly so that other scientists could check his work.
  • Parliament thought Jenner’s work was very important and he was given £30,000 to open a vaccination clinic in London.
  • Thomas Jefferson, President of the United States thought it was a great technique and believed that it would lead to the complete eradication of smallpox.
  • In 1802 the Jennerian Society was set up in London to promote vaccination and within two years over 12,000 people had been vaccinated.When the government provided a grant to pay for people to have free vaccinations, doctors lost money because people no longer paid for inoculations.
  • In 1805 Napoleon had all his soldiers vaccinated.
  • In 1852 the government made the vaccination compulsory (only to stop it being compulsory – see limitations).
  • When the British government enforced compulsory vaccination properly in 1872, the number of smallpox cases dropped dramatically
  • Jenner’s work formed the basis upon which Pasteur and Koch could build in the nineteenth century


  • The Royal Society in London refused to publish his book so Jenner published it himself.
  • There was opposition to the vaccination. Doctors who had been making lots of money from the inoculations were afraid they would lose money, especially if the government made vaccination compulsory and therefore free.
  • Compulsory vaccination was the FIRST TIME any government had forced a medical treatment on the entire population. There was uproar because people felt it was an attack on their personal freedom.
  • By 1887 opposition was so strong that the government allowed parents to refuse to have their children vaccinated if they didn’t want to let them have it done.
  • Jenner didn’t know that smallpox was caused by a virus because there weren’t any microscopes strong enough for him study the smallpox pus. Jenner couldn’t explain how or why his method worked, which made it harder for people to trust it.
  • Jenner had only shown a link existed between smallpox and cowpox. It didn’t work for any other diseases.
  • Vaccination was not always successful and some patients developed smallpox because some doctors didn’t carry out the vaccination very carefully.