© 2017

Contagionism Catches On

Medical Ideology in Britain, 1730-1800

  • Provides the social outcome of the acceptance of contagionism, proposed and explored in DeLacy’s first book, The Germ of an Idea (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016)

  • Appeals to cultural and social historians, as well as historians of medicine and eighteenth century Britain

  • Describes the consequences of the evolution of contagionism in eighteenth century Britain


Table of contents

About this book


This book shows how contagionism evolved in eighteenth century Britain and describes the consequences of this evolution. By the late eighteenth century, the British medical profession was divided between traditionalists, who attributed acute diseases to the interaction of internal imbalances with external factors such as weather, and reformers, who blamed contagious pathogens. The reformers, who were often “outsiders,” English Nonconformists or men born outside England, emerged from three coincidental transformations: transformation in medical ideas, in the nature and content of medical education, and in the sort of men who became physicians. Adopting contagionism led them to see acute diseases as separate entities, spurring a process that reoriented medical research, changed communities, established new medical institutions, and continues to the present day. 


contagionism 18th century Britain social history medical history Linnaeus

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.PortlandUSA

About the authors

Margaret DeLacy is the author of The Germ of an Idea: Contagionism, Religion and Society in Britain, 1660-1730 (Palgrave MacMillan, 2016), Prison Reform in Lancashire, 1700-1850: A Study in County Administration (Stanford University Press, 1986), and articles on medical history. She is an independent scholar in Portland Oregon.


Bibliographic information

  • Book Title Contagionism Catches On
  • Book Subtitle Medical Ideology in Britain, 1730-1800
  • Authors Margaret DeLacy
  • DOI
  • Copyright Information The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2017
  • Publisher Name Palgrave Macmillan, Cham
  • eBook Packages History History (R0)
  • Hardcover ISBN 978-3-319-50958-7
  • Softcover ISBN 978-3-319-84531-9
  • eBook ISBN 978-3-319-50959-4
  • Edition Number 1
  • Number of Pages IX, 347
  • Number of Illustrations 0 b/w illustrations, 0 illustrations in colour
  • Topics History of Britain and Ireland
    Social History
    History of Science
  • Buy this book on publisher's site


“This book is a study of a revolution in pathology that occurred in Britain in the second half of the eighteenth century. … Margaret DeLacy’s study is a valuable contribution to the existing literature.” (Laurence Brockliss, Isis, Vol. 109 (4), December, 2018)