Without Rules? Abdominal Surgery, Risk and Failure in Victorian Britain 1860-1890

  • Laura Neff (Speaker)

Activity: Participating in or organising an eventParticipation in conference


Surgeons and physicians believed that abdominal operations were unmanageable in the mid-nineteenth century; yet, within a mere fifty years abdominal surgeries were routinely executed. Male abdominal surgery was rare and considered outside the applied practices of internal surgery as growths such as tumours or cancers were linked to reproductive development. A cohort of influential surgeons began their careers only performing such operations on women in extreme cases. Indeed, the surgeons themselves combined the treatment of the diseases of women with the development of abdominal surgery. Thus, women as patients experienced dangerous and exploratory procedures with instances of difficult deliveries, complicated pregnancies or reproductive tumours each presenting what clinicians perceived as urgent and necessary entry into the abdominal cavity.

Breaking Boundaries Conference hosted by the Institute of Historical Research and History Lab at Senate House Library
Period24 Mar 2014
Event typeOther


  • IHR
  • History of Medicine
  • Surgery
  • History Lab
  • Senate House