Reviews Book

A History of the Royal College of Physicians of London, volume four (1948-1983)

BMJ 2005; 331 doi: (Published 13 October 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;331:910
  1. Roger Cooter, professorial fellow (
  1. Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine, University College London

    If ever there was a candidate for the dustbin of history at the outset of the NHS in 1948 it was the Royal College of Physicians of London. By then (the starting point for this fourth volume of its history) it had long outlived its initial guild conception. Nor was it an educational college in the modern sense, or a pressure group, or a specialty body, or a professionals' trade union. Renowned for its disdain of general practitioners as much as for its distrust of laboratory medicine, this 430 year old relic of medical elitism was ill fitted to the democratised new healthcare system—cordial and profitable though the negotiations had been between its then president, Lord Moran, and NHS architect Nye Bevan. Essentially a gentleman's club with a well stocked cellar, it was tucked away in a building at the corner of Trafalgar Square and Pall Mall East (better known then and now as Canada House)—its home since 1825. It was without a medical or a college secretary, and there was scarcely a woman to be found among its 767 fellows.

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    Asa Briggs

    Oxford University Press, £60, pp 498 ISBN 0 19 925334 X …

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