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Medical Services and Warfare

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Explore the history of illness, treatment and disease on international front lines from 1850 to 1927. Highlights include The Florence Nightingale Papers: personal and professional handwritten correspondence, now enhanced with Handwritten Text Recognition.

From the beginning of the Crimean War to the discovery of penicillin, Medical Services and Warfare gathers material from multiple conflicts and institutions to build a picture of the experience and development of medical practice as influenced by the wars of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

This collection focuses on the Crimean War, the American Civil War and the First World War among other conflicts. The impact on medicine during peacetime is also charted, notably through documents relating to the influenza epidemic of 1918 and post-war rehabilitation.

Thousands of primary source documents selected from prestigious archives and libraries provide a breadth of perspective and material types, including military hospital records of the First World War and family correspondence of Civil War soldiers and the medals they brought home.

Powerful search functionality supported by essays, biographies and interactive features enables a comparative approach to the study of medical practice and innovation during wartime, empowering scholars and students to chart the progress of developments across conflicts and nations.


Enhanced with Handwritten Text Recognition (HTR) technology, more than 5,000 letters, notes and reports from The Florence Nightingale Papers at the British Library are full-text searchable within Medical Services and Warfare.

Users can utilise HTR to full-text search across professional and personal writings from the beginning of Nightingale’s career to the peak of her renown, including discussions with legislators and nobility, lobbying efforts, statistical analyses and vital reports. Browse the interactive data visualisation, based on the famous coxcomb diagrams, to identify trends and to filter across letters, notes and reports featured within this unique collection.