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Evidence about the introduction of inoculation against smallpox, and the controversy surrounding compulsory vaccination, can be found in family papers of the 18th and 19th centuries.
The 3rd Duke of Portland was an early convert to inoculation. In 1768 Richard Brown of Islington petitioned the Duke to extend the inoculation of his tenants in Northumberland to "such of the Poor who chuse to be inoculated", at the expense of one shilling and sixpence each.
The practice of inoculation was adopted in England in the 18th century, encouraged by Lady Mary Wortley Montague. Edward Jenner's work on cowpox promoted the acceptance of preventative vaccination.
The vaccination of Lady Howard's infant for the sum of one guinea was by far the most expensive item on a bill presented the Lord Howard de Walden in 1833. Family letters and apothecary bills from the late 18th and 19th centuries regularly contain such references.
Compulsory vaccination was introduced in 1853, but remained controversial throughout the century.
"Compulsory Vaccination is a system of tyranny and torture..." claimed the MP, Mr P.A. Taylor, in 1881, writing in support of the Anti-Compulsory Vaccination movement. He refers to "cooked statistics" and "a muzzled press".
In 1898 a Conscience Clause was passed, allowing parents limited rights to exempt their children from vaccination.
Further sources relating to this subject area are held by Manuscripts and Special Collections at King's Meadow Campus. See our website for information about our collections and catalogues.