Reforms and Social Changes / Health

There have been continuous exchanges between Arab and European medicine since antiquity. In the 19th century, countries in the Arab and Ottoman world called on Western doctors to open modern, Western-style hospitals and dispensaries and to train the local elite. Colonial powers attempted to transpose modern methods that were beginning to bear fruit in Europe to the Arab and Ottoman world: improved hygiene, hospital construction and training of medical staff. Severe epidemics, endemic diseases and infant mortality all needed to be tackled. These efforts were particularly visible in large towns.

Working NumberNameHolding MuseumDateMaterialsCurator Justification
FR 084Médailles d'honneur d'or et de 1er mérite […] Biberon-Robert, flexible, patented […] Only the very best doesn't let your child go thirstyNational Library of France 1882In order to prevent contagion and infant diseases related to inadequate hygiene, doctors and hygienists worked to teach mothers new habits. Manufacturers adapted their products to the new hygiene rules.
TN 039Institut Pasteur19th century The Pasteur Institute in Tunis is typical of the construction of research centres in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and was dedicated to identifying different diseases and epidemics.
FR 090Laënnec examining a patient at the Necker Hospital in 1816National Library of France 19th century The history of medicine is marked by major discoveries in the 19th century, such as Laënnec's discoveries on auscultation (listening for body sounds, for example with a stethoscope). These discoveries helped to improve detection of diseases and care for patients.
PT 086Portable pharmacyPharmacy Museumc. 1880–1900Wood, glass, white metal, brassGreat progress was also made in the field of pharmacy in the 19th century. Medication and antiseptics were taken on journeys and to front lines in special boxes.
RO 028The AmbulanceNational Museum of Romanian History1877The numerous wars of the 19th and 20th centuries resulted in millions of wounded and dead. Ironically, this was a source of progress for medicine, in particular in the field of surgery, anaesthesia and asepsis.
IT2 023Nosocomium [Latin: Hospital]National Gallery of Modern Art (GNAM)1895Oil on canvasAdvances in psychiatry enabled a very gradual improvement in care for patients in Europe in the 19th century. Psychiatric illnesses were becoming better identified, and patients were no longer systematically locked up.
UK 142An Anxious HourVictoria and Albert Museum1865Oil on panelIn the mid-19th century, infant mortality was still high. Children’s diseases were harrowing for parents.
MO 084Photograph illustrating the response to the government's public vaccination campaignNational Library of the Kingdom of Morocco1916PaperThe invention of vaccinations helped to save many lives, such as the vaccination against smallpox, a very contagious and sometimes fatal disease.