Medicine and Magnificence


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British Hospital and Asylum Architecture, 1660–1815

Christine Stevenson

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The late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries represent a golden age in the design and construction of hospitals and asylums for the insane. In Britain the great veterans’ hospitals at Chelsea and Greenwich were erected, the ancient London hospitals completely reconstructed, and more than fifty other hospitals and asylums purpose-built by British charities or by the Navy. This book is the first devoted entirely to these fascinating buildings and to the wide contemporary interest that they aroused. In examining the planning and construction of English and Scottish hospitals in this period, architectural historian Christine Stevenson focuses on what these buildings meant--to architects, builders, donors, physicians, and the public--and how their meanings and functions changed.

Stevenson shows that hospital design was directed by medical theory and concerns to a greater degree than has been previously assumed. But this wide-ranging book is much more than a technical history. Blending social history with the details of construction, Stevenson introduces a large cast of players: voyeuristic women and dreaming engineers, military physicians who destroyed and Freemasons who built. In bringing to life those involved in designing and working in the institutions and those attacking them, too, she offers a new view of architectural, cultural and medical practice in the period as a whole.

Published for the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art

Christine Stevenson is lecturer in the department of history of art at the University of Reading, England.

“This is architectural and cultural history at its best. Complete notes; exhaustive bibliography. Very highly recommended.”—T. J. McCormick, Choice


“[A]n exceedingly detailed and comprehensive discussion.”—Eleanor Robbins, Art Book

“This beautifully produced and generously illustrated book has extensive notes, a list of manuscript sources and full bibliography. We are greatly indebted to the support of the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies of British Art and Yale University Press for getting it into print.”—Guenter B. Risse, Medical History

“Christine Stevenson provides the first scholarly survey for her chosen period. It complements several works cited in her introduction that have appeared over the last decade treating other moments in the history of hospitals. . . .The book gives a fascinating account of how hospital planning was guided by the need for air—the spreader of disease, but also the breath of life. . . . A substantial contribution to our knowledge of the hospital as a building type and to our understanding of the intricate relationship between architecture and cultural values in early modern Britain.”—Lydia M. Soo, Albion

“[A] fascinating study. . . . It is a history of architecture written with deep knowledge and understanding of medical and scientific history, and of how architectural means were or were not, as the case might be, directed towards achieving medical ends. . . . It fills an important gap in the literature of eighteenth-century medicine.”—Sophie Forgan, British Journal for the History of Science

“A splendid piece of pathbreaking scholarship . . . engrossing, original . . . and a pleasure to read.”—Roy Porter, University of London
ISBN: 9780300085365
Publication Date: January 11, 2001
Publishing Partner: Published for the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art
320 pages, 71/2 x 10
96 b/w illus.
The City and the King

Architecture and Politics in Restoration London

Christine Stevenson

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