Safe and Sound: Medical Legislation in Nineteenth-Century England

During the nineteenth century much of the Western world witnessed a period of social, political, and technological change that significantly altered the organization of society. A growing complexity in the machine of public administration propelled a new image of the state as a legal apparatus composed by people, for the benefit of the people. No other area embodied this transformation better than medicine.

In England and Wales, legal intervention became increasingly relevant as the century progressed. While the reign of George III introduced a few statutes regarding hospitals, quarantine, and apothecaries, it was during the Victorian period that health issues became a matter of periodic concern for the parliament. Important legislations addressed the regulation of medicine as a profession, compulsory vaccination, and urban sanitation. Standing bodies like the General Board of Health became crucial actors in the implementation of hygienic provisions throughout the country.

This table includes all major English laws dealing with medicine and public health passed during the nineteenth century. Click on the Name for accessing a PDF transcript of the statute. Original sources available on JustiOne (with subscription).

Year Name Regnal Reference
1773 Lying in Hospitals Act 13 Geo. III, c. LXXXII
1800 Quarantine Act 39 & 40 Geo. III, c. LXXX
1805 Quarantine Act 45 Geo. III, c. X
1815 Apothecaries Act 55 Geo. III, c. CXCIV
1825 Quarantine Act 6 Geo. IV, c. LXXVIII
1832 Anatomy Act 2 & 3 Will. IV, c. 75
1836 Coroners Act 6 & 7 Will. IV, c. 89
1840 Vaccination Act 3 & 4 Vict., c. XXIX
1846 Nuisances Removal Act 9 & 10 Vict., c. XCVI
1848 Public Health Act 11 & 12 Vict., c. LXIII
1848 Nuisances Removal Act 11 & 12 Vict., c. CXXIII
1849 Public Health Supplemental Act 12 & 13 Vict., c. XCIV
1849 Nuisances Removal Act 12 & 13 Vict., c. CXI
1852 Pharmacy Act 15 & 16 Vict., c. LVI
1853 Vaccination Act 16 & 17 Vict., c. C
1854 Public Health Act 17 & 18 Vict., c. XCV
1855 Diseases Prevention Act 18 & 19 Vict., c. CXVI
1855 Nuisances Removal (England) Act 18 & 19 Vict., c. CXXI
1855 General Board of Health Continued Act 18 & 19 Vict., c. CXV
1858 Medical Act 21 & 22 Vic., c. 60
1858 Local Government Act 21 & 22 Vict., c. XCVIII
1858 Public Health Act 21 & 22 Vict., c. XCVII
1862 Medical Council Act 25 & 26 Vict., c. XCI
1864 Contagious Diseases Prevention Act 27 & 28 Vict., c. LXXXV
1866 Sanitary Act 29 & 30 Vict., c. XC
1866 Contagious Diseases Act 29 & 30 Vict., c. XXXV
1867 Vaccination Act 30 & 31 Vict., c. LXXXIV
1869 Contagious Diseases Act 32 & 33 Vict., c. 96
1870 Sanitary Act 33 & 34 Vict., c. 53
1872 Public Health Act 35 & 36 Vict., c. 79
1874 Sanitary Law Amendment Act 37 & 38 Vict., c. 89
1875 Public Health Act 38 & 39 Vict., c. 55
1886 Medical Act 49 & 50 Vict., c. 48
1886 Contagious Diseases (Animals) Act 49 & 50 Vict., c. 32
1889 Infectious Disease (Notification) Act 52 & 53 Vict., c. 72
1890 Public Health Acts 53 & 54 Vict., c. 59
1890 Infectious Disease (Prevention) Act 53 & 54 Vict., c. 34
1891 Public Health (London) Act 54 & 55 Vict., c. 76
1893 Isolation Hospitals Act 56 & 57 Vict., c. 68

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