The origins and professional development of chiropractic in Britain

Wilson, Francis James (2012) The origins and professional development of chiropractic in Britain University of Southampton, School of Social Sciences, Doctoral Thesis , 272pp.


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In June 2001 the title ‘chiropractor’ came to be protected under British law and those who called themselves chiropractors attained a position of increased legitimacy within British society. Yet the details of chiropractic’s journey to statutory recognition have not been thoroughly explored in contemporary literature. The origins and development of chiropractic in Britain have received meagre attention from historical scholars. This thesis uses a neo-Weberian approach to explore the history of chiropractic in Britain through the lens of ‘professionalisation’. It investigates the emergence of chiropractic in Britain, and details how and why chiropractic developed in the way that it did, assessing the significance of processes and events in respect to chiropractic’s professionalisation, and examining intra- and inter-occupational tensions. The thesis is primarily a product of documentary research, but is also informed by interviews undertaken to provide oral testimonies. Although the origins of chiropractic are usually traced back to the 1890s, to Davenport, Iowa, and to the practice of Daniel David Palmer, it is argued in this thesis that it is misleading to claim that chiropractic was ‘discovered’ by Daniel Palmer, or that chiropractic in Britain was entirely an ‘import’ from the United States. Instead, chiropractic’s origins were complex and multifarious and form part of a broader history of manipulative practices. With regard to the development of chiropractic in Britain, chiropractic’s history is intertwined with that of osteopathy, and has involved medicalisation. This study demonstrates that through the course of its evolution chiropractic was subject to processes that can usefully be described in terms of professionalisation, sharing features in common with the professionalisation of other occupational groups described in historical and sociological literature. Even so, chiropractors did not attain the social presence or cultural authority of archetypal professionals such as medical doctors or lawyers. Although protection of title was achieved, many problems have remained, including divisions within the occupation.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Additional Information: The aim of this thesis is to explore and critically evaluate the history of chiropractic in Britain from its origins to the point of protection of title under British law in 2001. The lens of ‘professionalisation’ is used to assist in the understanding of how and why changes occurred that resulted in chiropractic moving from a very marginal status within British society in the early years of the twentieth century. This introductory chapter begins with a preliminary assessment of the position attained by chiropractic in 2001. It is followed by a review of relevant historical scholarship, offering information about previous related studies, and highlighting the gap in knowledge to be considered.
Organisations: University of Southampton, Social Sciences
ePrint ID: 341659
Date :
Date Event
1 May 2012Published
Date Deposited: 27 Sep 2012 14:53
Last Modified: 17 Apr 2017 16:44
Further Information:Google Scholar

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