Walking London's medical history

BMJ 2006; 333 doi: (Published 16 November 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;333:1075
  1. Wendy Moore (

As they trudge the streets of London, few residents, commuters, or visitors have any idea of the strange and wonderful medical history which has played out around them in centuries past. Unsuspecting tourists check in at a hotel which stands on the site of the outbreak of the Great Plague of 1665, parents drop their children at a nursery which once housed a mortuary, and office workers sip their lattes beside a hospital building where Victorian prostitutes once sought relief from venereal disease—all in cheerful ignorance.

But Nick Black knows where the bodies are buried. In his delightful guide book, describing seven walks through the capital, Black tweaks aside the curtains, scratches away the paintwork, and lifts the roofs to reveal the intriguing secrets of London's hidden medical past.

Each of the walks, none lasting more than two and a half hours, adopts a theme which traces key developments in the history of London's–and by extension Britain's—medical services, interweaving numerous anecdotes and facts en route. The experience is rather like attending a mobile lecture with an expert health academic—Black …

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