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Library Europe's largest nursing-specific collection

History of Nursing

The history of nursing encompasses the story of the largest section of the health care workforce, in war and peace, home and hospital. It includes the nursing care of adults, mothers and babies, children, and people with a learning disability or mental health problem. Use this guide as a starting point to find information resources related to the history of nursing including books, journals, archives and exhibitions.

Last updated: 23/03/2017

Books

Brooks J & Hallett C E (2015) (editors) One Hundred Years of Nursing Wartime Practices, 1854-1953, Manchester : Manchester University Press. Brooks J & Hallett C E (2015) (editors) One hundred years of nursing wartime practices, 1854-1953, Manchester: Manchester University Press.
D D'Antonio P (2013) Routledge handbook on the global history of nursing, Abingdon: Routledge.
Davis E (2015) Betsy Cadwaladyr : a Balaclava nurse : an autobiography of Elizabeth Davis, Aberystwyth : Honno. Davis E (2015) Betsy Cadwaladyr: a Balaclava nurse : an autobiography of Elizabeth Davis, Aberystwyth: Honno.
Graham M (2013) Nurses voices from the Northern Ireland troubles: personal accounts form the front line, London: RCN Publishing Graham M (2013) Nurses voices from the Northern Ireland troubles: personal accounts form the front line, London: RCN Publishing.
McEwen Y (2014) In the company of nurses: the history of the British Army Nursing Service in the Great War, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press McEwen Y (2014) In the company of nurses: the history of the British Army Nursing Service in the Great War, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
McGann S, Crowther, A & Dougall R (2009) A History of the Royal College of Nursing, 1916-1990: A Voice for Nursing, Manchester: Manchester University Press. McGann S, Crowther, A & Dougall R (2009) A history of the Royal College of Nursing, 1916-1990: A voice for nursing, Manchester: Manchester University Press.
Mortimer B (2012) Sisters memories from the courageous nurses of world war two. London: Hutchenson. Mortimer B (2012) Sisters memories from the courageous nurses of world war two, London: Hutchenson.
Palmer D (2014) Who cared for the carers? A history of the occupational health of nurses, 1880-1948, Manchester: Manchester University Press. Palmer D (2014) Who cared for the carers? A history of the occupational health of nurses, 1880-1948, Manchester: Manchester University Press.
Parry J F (2015) Joyce Parry J F (2015) Joyce's war: the Second World War journal of a Queen Alexandra nurse, Stroud : The History Press.
Robinson J (2006) Mary Seacole: the charismatic black nurse who became a heroine of the Crimea, London: Constable. Robinson J (2006) Mary Seacole: the charismatic black nurse who became a heroine of the Crimea, London: Constable.
Skretkowicz V (editor) (1992) Florence Nightingale’s Notes on Nursing (Revised with additions), London: Scutari Press. Skretkowicz V (editor) (1992) Florence Nightingale’s Notes on Nursing (revised with additions), London: Scutari Press.
Souhami D (2015) Edith Cavell (Centenary edition), London: Quercus. Souhami D (2015) Edith Cavell (Centenary edition), London: Quercus.
Sweet H & Hawkins S (2015) (editors) Colonial Caring: A History of Colonial and Post-Colonial Nursing. Manchester: Manchester University Press. Sweet H & Hawkins S (2015) (editors) Colonial caring: A history of colonial and post-colonial nursing, Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Book subject searches

Use these links to see details of books the RCN libraries hold on each topic.
We would like to thank the RCN History of Nursing member community for their input into the development of this subject guide.

Journal articles

Use these links for details of journal articles on each topic.

Journals

Journals of interest for the history of nursing. Use these links to see details of availability.

Exhibitions and Events

Online Library Exhibitions
  • Explore some of the past and present exhibitions at the RCN's Library and Heritage Centre in London.
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Library Events

Special Collections

Our Permanent Collection consists of nursing specific core items and rare items. It is viewable by appointment at the RCN Library and Heritage Centre. Here is a small selection of items from our collection.
Baly M (1980) Nursing and social change, London: Heinemann.
Grove EW (1917) Text-book for nurses anatomy, physiology, surgery and medicine, London: Henry Frowde.
Nightingale F (1865) Organization of nursing : an account of the Liverpool Nurses' Training School, its foundation, progress, and operation in hospital, district, and private nursing, Liverpool: A. Holden.
Rathbone W (1868) Workhouse nursing : the story of a successful experiment, London: Macmillan.

Historical Journals

The RCN Library and Archive Service holds an unrivalled range of English language nursing journals from around the world. The earliest issues date back to 1888 with titles covering a wide variety of nursing fields.
Nursing Record/British Journal of Nursing (1888-1956)
  • Digitised journal available online.
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Nursing Times (1905-present)

Archives

The RCN Archive contains some of the most important collections dedicated to the history of the nursing profession in the UK. Visitors by appointment in Edinburgh.
Collections related to the history of nursing include:
  • Royal College of Nursing Archive 1916 – present. Search the Archives Catalogue (Ref No = RCN*)
  • Personal Papers. Search the Archives Catalogue (Ref No = C*)
  • Badges and medals. Search the Archive catalogue (Any Text = badge).
  • Oral History collection. Search the Archives Catalogue (Ref No = T)
  • Photographic collection. Images are available in the Archive catalogue (search Any Text = photograph)
  • Postcard collection. Search the Archives catalogue (Any Text = postcard)
  • Records of other nursing organisations. Search the Archives catalogue (Ref No = QNIS*)

This subject guide relates to:

RCN Library staff

Diane McCourt

Author of this guide

RCN Library and Archive Services