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March 28, 1986

Surgeons at the Bailey: English Forensic Medicine to 1878

Author Affiliations

Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine London


by Thomas Rogers Forbes, 225 pp, with illus, $26, New Haven, Conn, Yale University Press, 1985.

JAMA. 1986;255(12):1636. doi:10.1001/jama.1986.03370120114035

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The Guildhall Library in London contains a magnificent collection of books and manuscripts pertaining to all aspects of English and especially London history. For the past three decades or so, there have been few more faithful users of the library's holdings than Dr Forbes, long-time professor of anatomy and now a senior research scholar in the history of medicine at Yale. A steady stream of books and articles has established him as one of the chief chroniclers of health and disease and life and death in the English capital from early modern times until the 19th century. His work has been characterized by the patient exploitation of the raw material of social, demographic, and medical history: parish records of births, marriages, and deaths; reports of coroners' inquests; and the accounts of trials, especially those contained in the Old Bailey Sessions Papers, a vast series of printed transcripts, dating from 1684,