• Essays on The Professions by Penelope J. Corfield

3.6 The Professions

3.6.1 Eighteenth-Century Lawyers and the Advent of the Modern Professional Ethos (2003), Pdf12
This essay explores the collective self-image and pride of the lawyers as an emergent profession in Britain in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. It then examines the countervailing role of public satire, as a form of holding the lawyers to account (in a popular source of admonitory humour which remains internationally current to this day). And the analysis concludes by assessing the lawyers’ quest for professional self-regulation in the early nineteenth century, led by the attorneys. The fact that in the UK (though not in the USA) the ‘attornies’ – also known as ‘pettyfoggers’ – were gradually renamed as ‘solicitors’ marked the upgrading of their collective reputation. This process was a necessary one for a profession reliant upon trust – and it remains one which needs continual attention in every generation.
This discussion may be usefully read in conjunction with P.J. Corfield, Power and the Professions in Britain, 1700-1850 (1995; 1999); and with 3.6.2.

3.6.2 From Poison Peddlers to Civic Worthies: The Reputation of the Apothecaries in Georgian England (2009), Pdf13
Trust is not automatically granted to providers of professional services. The doctors of Georgian England were, by later standards, deficient in medical knowhow, particularly before the mid-nineteenth-century scientific understanding of antiseptics, and were much satirised. Nonetheless, the emergence of a coherent medical profession indicates that the picture was far more positive than the satirists implied. Patients sought care as well as cure; and medical practitioners had no problems in finding custom. This essay reassesses the apothecaries’ role in the slow transition whereby reputable practitioners differentiated themselves from ‘quacks’. Numerous well-esteemed doctors emerged as ‘urban worthies’ and trusted care-givers in most eighteenth-century towns; and they also linked together to form their own local and national networks of communication. As public trust grew, Parliament was emboldened in 1815 to license the Apothecaries Society as the regulatory body for the medical rank-and-file, so launching the distinctive Anglo-American system of arm’s-length state regulation. The apothecaries are the employment-ancestors of today’s General Practitioners – indicating that regulation and reform started at the grass-roots of the medical profession. This essay first appeared in Social History of Medicine, 22 (2009), pp. 1-21, online: shm.oxfordjournals.org. It may usefully be read in conjunction with P.J. Corfield, Power and the Professions in Britain, 1700-1850 (1995; 1999); and with 3.6.1.