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"The First Day" - 18th Century Child Medical Care - a film by Professor Andrew N. Williams

'The First Day' – a film recreating 18th century voluntary hospital child health care

Written and Directed by Professor Andrew N. Williams PhD FRHistS , Consultant community paediatrician/ curator of Archive, Virtual Academic Unit, Childrens' Directorate, Northampton General Hospital, UK.

Click here to view the film.

Williams' writes:

Children are a nation's most precious resource and all deserve having the best start to help them live full and meaningful lives. At some time or another, all children are unwell, but some have additional needs. 21st century child health care is exemplified by that of the Children's Directorate, Northampton General Hospital, United Kingdom.

Until recently, historians of paediatrics have generally assumed that "paediatrics as a specialized branch of medicine had no real existence before the middle of the nineteenth century." (1)  Of course, this is only true if we equate paediatrics here with specialized children's hospitals and with professional organizations. 

It is clear from earlier surviving archival records such as that held at Northampton that hospital paediatrics has a much longer history and that hospital child health care was occurring and in large numbers. (2) Indeed the first inpatient ever admitted at the then Northampton General Infirmary on 29th March 1744 was Thomasin Grace a 13 year old child who suffered from 'scald head'. Reconstructing the history of what might be called "paediatrics before paediatricians" using present day Northampton children with original archival material is what this brief film 'The First Day' demonstrates.

The film was shown twice at the 2015 Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health  Annual Meeting. It has subsequently been very favourably reviewed in Medical History (3). 

Follow Thomasin's healthcare journey through the original infirmary premises guided by local Northampton children, Theze Guyz Theatre Company, professional actors together with medical, social and architectural historians.


1 Garrison FH, Abt AF. History of Pediatrics. London, England: WB Saunders; 1965: 1.

2 Williams A.N.; Sharma  R. Children in Hospitals before there were Children's Hospitals:  Pediatrics 2014: 134, 3, 1-3.

3  Review of 'The First Day' : Brian R. Hauser (2016). Medical History, 60,  pp 447-449. doi:10.1017/mdh.2016.53.