Skip to main content  


​Child health in London exhibition, runs from Monday 19 November 2018 to 10 April 2019

Paediatrics, the specialist branch of medicine dealing with children and their diseases, was a relatively late development in Britain. Classical medical texts transmitted to Europe via scholars from the Islamic World from the tenth to twelfth centuries had distinguished between the treatment of children and adults, but there is little evidence that these ideas were developed until much later. By the end of the nineteenth century, significant breakthroughs in medical science had provided the stimulus to tackle disproportionally high child mortality rates and resulted in a more coordinated approach to child healthcare provision, culminating in the foundation of the National Health Service in 1948.

Our exhibition explores some of these developments through a variety of themes, concentrating on institutions, services, practitioners and patients. We look at the dangers to the health of London’s children and the pioneering ways in which they were tackled. Themes include child mortality, the establishment of specialist children’s hospitals, developments in treatment, school health services, child psychiatry and child guidance, and the coming of the NHS; as well as preventative public health measures focusing on non-medical factors such as diet, housing conditions, hygiene, lifestyle and education.

Case studies of patients and practitioners explore the varying ways in which society viewed children, child patients and the various medical conditions they suffered; and how contemporary attitudes affected the way patients were classified, diagnosed and treated.

Our story is one of hardship and hope. From social philanthropy, to emerging Poor Law institutions, the Metropolitan Asylums Board, the London and Middlesex County Councils, and the NHS, we trace the emergence of healthcare systems offering greater equality of treatment and ever committed to improving the lives of children in the capital and beyond.

12 November 2018
Last Modified:
15 November 2018