Degree

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

History

Document Type

Dissertation

Abstract

This project seeks to understand the methods employed by the College of Physicians to maintain its authority and privileges in the English medical marketplace in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. The College of Physicians was founded in 1518 by Dr. Thomas Linacre, whose medical humanist ideals became the framework for the College’s organization and statutes. The College was tasked with regulating the medical practice of practitioners in London. Physicians licensed by the College were, by law the only physicians allowed to practice internal medicine in London and the surrounding seven miles. It examined and licensed physicians and scrutinized and punished those practitioners who were deemed unworthy of a license or had been convicted of malpractice. The College was not alone with its rights to govern medicine in London; it competed against the Company of Barber-Surgeons and Society of Apothecaries, who were also chartered corporations with privileges over their fields of medicine. The College, Company, and Society interacted on a variety of levels, competing to gain more privileges. The mechanisms employed ranged from petitioning the crown or Parliament for increased legal authority; internal improvements; use of the printing press and print culture; measured responses to advances in medical techniques and knowledge; taking cases to court to enforce internal decisions; and written appeals made directly to the other medical organizations. These interactions helped to create a lively and ever-changing medical marketplace in London that was attune to advancements occurring in the field. The College was forced to navigate not only the competitive medical field, but the changes that were occurring within society during this same time. Ancient authorities were coming under question and society was being forced to make difficult choices. Looking at the way the College of Physicians responded to each new challenge provides insight into how its members dealt with previously unquestioned truths being tested and overthrown.

Date

3-18-2019

Committee Chair

Stater, Victor

Available for download on Sunday, March 15, 2026

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