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A system of care and control: British naval medicine 1790-1815

Erin Spinney

Award: 2017 Post-Doctoral Fellow

Erin is currently finishing her PhD at the University of Saskatchewan before commencing her Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Oxford in March 2018.  Erin’s postdoctoral research “A System of Care and Control: British Naval Medicine 1790-1815” considers naval medicine as an interconnected system involving ships, hospital ships, and land-based hospitals. This research builds on Erin’s doctoral dissertation which examined military and naval nursing throughout the British empire from 1763-1820.

Using the longitudinal and latitudinal coordinates for hospital ships, found in log books, Erin will map their location using Historical Geographic Information Systems (HGIS).  This will allow her to visually demonstrate a naval system of care, and highlight the connectivity of such a system.  Meanwhile, textual analysis of letter books and reports will flesh out the interconnectivity of the naval medical system and how such a system was understood by contemporaries.  Such contemporary understandings, will position the medical system of care also as a system of control; designed to cure disease and heal wounds, yes, but also to police the bodies of sailors, protect against desertion, and ensure that such men returned to their ships and the British war effort as quickly as possible.