Medical Services and Warfare

Explore the history of illness, treatment and disease on international front lines from 1850 to 1949.

From the beginning of the Crimean War to the discovery of penicillin, Medical Services and Warfare gathers material from multiple conflicts 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.

Powerful handwritten text recognition (HTR) 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.

These sources are  second to none, and their digitisation has opened up a whole world of material to historians and students.These sources are  second to none, and their digitisation has opened up a whole world of material to historians and students.
Professor Christine Hallett, University of Manchester

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Modules include:

Module I: 1850-1927

Medical Services and Warfare: 1850-1927 presents military, scientific, professional and personal perspectives on medicine during conflicts across North America and Europe. The collection covers developments including x-rays, plastic surgery, artificial limbs and sanitation, with a focus on rehabilitation, nursing and the psychological toll of war.

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

Module II: 1928-1949 (Publishing in 2020)

This major multi-archival resource will document a range of military medical developments which changed modern medicine and patient care from the inter-war period to the mid-twentieth Century.

Collections show how the requirements of increasingly modern warfare and the treatment of wounded soldiers brought about solutions which were later made available for civilian use, and include materials on the antibiotics age, plastic surgery, the awareness and treatment of typhus, malaria, burns and psychiatry.

Key Data

Period Covered

  • 1850-1949


  • More than 5,000 letters, notes and reports from The Florence Nightingale Papers at the British Library are now full-text searchable with handwritten text recognition (HTR) technology
  • The Jonathan Letterman Collection: correspondence and memoirs from the ‘father of battlefield medicine’
  • Personal papers of VADs and medical personnel from the Liddle First World War collection
  • Interactive mortality data from the American Civil War including detailed patient lists and outcomes
  • The American Red Cross collection from the Hoover Institution
  • Family correspondence from Civil War nurses and soldiers of both armies
  • The Douglas C. McMurtrie collection of printed works on disability and rehabilitation
  • Civil War hospital registers from the Briscoe Center for American History
  • Papers from the Canadian Department of National Health detailing responses to the 1918 flu epidemic
  • Images of artefacts including prostheses, surgical equipment and uniforms

Source Archives

  • Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin
  • British Library
  • Hoover Institution Library & Archives
  • Library and Archives Canada
  • National Museum of Civil War Medicine
  • Special Collections, University of Leeds
  • The National Archives, UK
  • The New York Academy of Medicine Library
  • U.S. National Library of Medicine

Material Types

  • Hospital reports and registers
  • Correspondence
  • Memoirs and diaries
  • Printed books and periodicals
  • Maps, charts and hospital plans
  • Photographs, postcards and illustrations
  • Objects

Editorial Board

  • Julie Anderson, University of Kent
  • Christine Hallett, University of Manchester
  • Peter Leese, University of Copenhagen
  • Lynn McDonald, University of Guelph
  • Jessica Meyer, University of Leeds
  • Terry Reimer, National Museum of Civil War Medicine
  • Jeffrey Reznick, U.S. National Library of Medicine


  • Ambulance Systems
  • Disability
  • Hospital Care
  • Medical Developments and Equipment
  • Mental Health
  • Nursing
  • Personal Experience
  • Public Health, Welfare and Reform
  • Rehabilitation
  • Sanitation
  • Surgery
  • Women at War

Key Features

  • Browse the Florence Nightingale 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
  • Contextualising essays from a range of academics on topics such as nursing, hospital care and the development of modern medicine
  • Directories of key personnel and medical developments


A unique collection of primary source materials in a resource full of interactive features that makes research into this somewhat grim field almost enjoyable.

This particular online resource brings together digitized primary source material from diaries, hospital records and logs, letters, and photos that outline the numerous medical advances that have come about as ......

Rich content on the evolution of medicine

This database provides rich content on the evolution of medicine within the setting of warfare, from the middle of the nineteenth century to the late 1920s. As with its other ......