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.
Book subject searches
Exhibitions and Events
Explore some of the past and present exhibitions at the RCN's Library and Heritage Centre in London.
Check our upcoming events.
Digitised journal available online.
Viewable by appointment at the RCN Library and Heritage Centre.
View journal details
- 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*)
- RCN Archive
- RCN archive catalogue
- RCN Digital Archive
RCN Members can explore the records of past events, such as Congress and Annual General Meetings, using the Digital Archive for Members.
RCN Digital Archive for members
- Royal College of Nursing Bulletin (1920-1926)
- Royal College of Nursing Annual Reports (1917 – 2017)
This subject guide relates to:
Editor of this guide
RCN Library and Archive Service
Upcoming events relating to this subject guide
15 Jun 2022
Hear how the history of care for people with learning disabilities has shifted over time, and how community care functions today.
21 Jun 2022
Join historians, expert nurses and patients to find out more about the history of sickle cell disease and treatment in the UK.
22 Jun 2022
A walking tour of the history of nursing and women's suffrage around the Royal College of Nursing, celebrating 100 years of the RCN Library.
06 Jul 2022
Find out why we need to understand the history of learning disability to ensure better support for people with learning disabilities today.
21 Jul 2022
Join us in person or online for talks exploring the history and personal experiences of autism and neurodiversity.
07 Sep 2022
Find out about the medical and social history of Down Syndrome in an online talk by Professor David Wright.
13 Oct 2022
Join us in person or online to hear about the lives and personal experiences of learning disability nurses.
Page last updated - 18/12/2021