This fascinating study charts the early history of the professions in England - concentrating on those associated with the Church, medicine and the law. It analyses the development of an educated 'class' falling between the non-working leisured classes and the merchants, traders, craftsmen and labourers who comprised the working population of the country.The increasing professionalisation of England and the other powerful nations of Europe was a major factor in the development of a recognisably modern world. This new study traces the origins of the movement, not to industrialisation, but to the growth in the period 1500-1800 of groups of men, engaged in the law, the church and medicine, with a common educational background and steeped in an ideology of service to the 'commonweal'. This study combines the author's new research and a synthesis of the best recent scholarship in a clear and original interpretation, making it an excellent survey upon which to draw for teaching or student use.The book defines and addresses the key questions: What are the most helpful tools for the historian to use in approaching the early history of the professions?
What was the nature of professional 'work' and was it distinct from other work in that society? How did professionals regard the work they did and what was their relationship with those they served? Were the professions independent of political and other restraints? Were the separate professions bound together as a social group? Throughout the period, it is argued, the learned professions regarded themselves as called by God to serve and as equipped with particular expertise and commitment to fulfil this vocation. The various professions within the Church, the law and medicine are examined in separate sections, providing a chronological framework for their development and an analysis of their distinctive features and the constraints which society placed on them. By the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the ethos of professional responsibility was acknowledged and inherent in the organisation and working practices of ever-growing numbers. Its public recognition justified the professions' increasing financial, social and political importance.Rosemary O'Day is Professor of History at The Open University.