The Evolution of British General Practice 1850-1948

By Anne Digby | Go to book overview

10
Public Duties and Private Lives

HEYWOOD Hardy's late-Victorian painting of an elderly country doctor, asking directions to a remote patient from a shepherd boy, depicted the GP riding across a barren, upland landscape under a lowering sky. Entitled 'Duty', it provides us with a socially respectful view of the public face of a dedicated, hardworking professional.1 Luke Fildes's contemporary painting, The Doctor, (reproduced on the cover) showed a more subtle blend of the GP's public and private faces, which focused on personal feelings within a professional encounter. In this artistic representation a GP could afford plentiful time for a patient in the poorest family, so that a preoccupied doctor is shown gazing with concern at a dying child, unable to save his patient despite his utmost endeavours. This skilful blend of the authentic and the idealized appealed both to the public, and to the GP's self-image.2 The extent to which medical ideals and aspirations were constrained by therapeutic and economic realities was appreciated by contemporaries, as in Trollope's study of a Barsetshire GP, Dr Thorne ( 1858), which the author considered was 'the most popular book I have ever written'.3 Literary representations of general practitioners produced by members of the medical profession themselves also gave useful insights into public duties and private lives. A. J. Cronin, for example, utilized his own experience as a young doctor in South Wales to give, in The Citadel of 1937, a vivid picture of the hardships attached to a young assistant's extensive duties in the Welsh valleys, as well as the personal problems this caused.4

The lifestyles which doctors wished to live, as well as the interface between public and private in the lives of doctors, were historically documented in the sale advertisements of their practices which, whilst having a basis in reality, also highlighted the kind of lives they wished to attain. Skilfully combining

____________________
1
This was painted in 1888, and is reproduced in C. Wood, Paradise Lost ( 1988), 117.
2
This painting of 1891 still adorns prominent positions in medical schools, while the American Medical Association chose it for the postal stamp commemorating its centenary ( V. Fildes, Luke Fildes,RA. A Victorian Painter ( 1968)). Interestingly, GPs also chose to hang it in their waiting rooms, as did Dr Harding in Faringdon.
3
A. Trollope, Dr Thorne (World's Classics edn., Oxford, 1980)), pp. xi, 32.
4
A. J. Cronin ( 1896- 1981), studied medicine at Glasgow (MB, Ch.B., 1919), and first practised in South Wales before moving to London.

-259-

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The Evolution of British General Practice 1850-1948
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgements vii
  • Contents ix
  • List of Plates, Maps, and Figures xi
  • List of Tables xiii
  • Abbreviations xiv
  • 1 - Constructing General Practice 1
  • PART I - Careers 21
  • 3 - Recruitment, Education, and Training 40
  • 4 - Reinventing Roles 66
  • PART II - In Practice 91
  • The Medical Market 93
  • 6 - Organizing A Practice 126
  • 7 - Women Practitioners 154
  • 8 - Medical Investigation and Treatment 187
  • 9 - Patients 224
  • PART III - A Wider World 257
  • 10 - Public Duties and Private Lives 259
  • 11 - Generalists, Specialists, and Others 287
  • 12 - National Health Insurance 306
  • 13 - The National Health Service 325
  • Select Bibliography 343
  • Index of Medical Names 365
  • General Index 369
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