The Cutter’s Art: Surgery Among the London Company of Barber-Surgeons and the Royal College of Surgeons

Date

2024

Authors

Ignatius Newton, Sherwin

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Worldwide access

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Abstract

From surgery’s humble origins as a “cutter’s art,” what was once a craft akin to shoemaking and barbery has evolved into a richly diverse and esoteric profession. I aim to provide an account of surgery’s dynamic existence focused on the city of London from the sixteenth through the nineteenth centuries. These four centuries saw significant changes as the art of surgery went from the hands of monks to barber-surgeons, and finally to the learned surgeons. I bring to light elements such as advancements in education, examination, licensing, and especially status by analyzing the London Company of Barber-Surgeons and the Royal College of Surgeons. Initially, I focus on the most common surgical practitioner in the Late Middle Ages – the barber-surgeon. In subsequent sections, I survey the London Company of Barber-Surgeons and the Royal College of Surgeons paying special attention to their internal organization and practices. As it shall be demonstrated, the activities and beliefs of these associations reflect the developing status of surgery in their respective eras.

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Keywords

History of surgery., Medical history.

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