In the middle of the eighteenth century, hospitals were unfamiliar institutions to the inhabitants of most English towns and cities. As early as the late nineteenth century, however, hospitals had become central to both the provision of health care and medical education in most large urban population centres. Drawing on hospital records, the publications of associated medical staff and a wealth of other local documents, l>Health Care in Birmingham/l> carefully maps the evolution of nine voluntary hospitals, and their associated medical specialities in Birmingham, England over the century and a half before the introduction of the National Health Service, a period that witnessed significant social, economic and cultural change. From the emergence of the town's first General Hospital in 1779, the wealth of this key industrial centre in particular encouraged the development of a full range of medical institutions, including those established to treat afflictions of the bones and joints, eye, ear, teeth and skin, as well as ailments peculiar to women and children.
Besides charting the local development of a wide range of specialist fields, l>Health Care in Birmingham/l> firmly situates each hospital in its local and national contexts. Though greatly reorganised on the eve of the Second World War, these institutions influenced considerably the history and landscape of the city, and continue to do so today. This is the first time their history has been considered collectively in a single volume. Jonathan Reinarz is Director of the Centre for the History of Medicine at the University of Birmingham.