University of Exeter Press

Vaccination Wars

Cornwall in the Nineteenth Century

      For as long as there have been vaccines, there have been those who oppose them. As the world continues to grapple with the impact of COVID-19 and the challenges of managing an effective vaccination programme, this book shows that our experiences have more in common with those of previous generations than we may so far have understood. 

      Vaccination Wars examines the history of vaccine objection in nineteenth-century Cornwall, looking not only at the reasons behind resistance to the smallpox vaccine, but at the lives of Cornish parents who steadfastly refused to have their children inoculated. Exploring the earliest phases of the anti-vaccination movement, the rise of middle-class resistance and organized opposition societies, and the influence of propaganda, the book presents a more nuanced understanding of the ways regional and cultural differences affect the reception of state-mandated medical practices. 

      Ella Stewart-Peters challenges existing notions of the nineteenth-century debate by shifting the focus away from major urban centres to the struggles concerned with enforcing compulsory vaccination at the peripheries. Distinct parallels can be drawn with the anti-vaccination movement of the twenty-first century.

      This book will appeal to anyone who has ever wondered about the origins of the modern anti-vaccination movement, or is more generally interested in the history of medicine.

      This book will add significantly to histories of local anti-vaccination sentiment. We have a clear sense of Cornish people actively engaged in choice-making around children and disease.

      Alison Bashford
      Laureate Professor of History, UNSW, Australia

      List of Illustrations
      1. Vaccination Versus Sanitary Theory
      2. Vaccination Versus Inoculation
      3. Folklore Versus Medicine
      4. The People Versus Compulsion
      5. The Cragoe Brothers Versus the Establishment
      6. The Poor Law Unions Versus the People

      Ella Stewart-Peters has a PhD in History from Flinders University, South Australia, and works in medical assessment for the College of Medicine and Public Health at Flinders.