Should we call for a doctor? Households, consumption and the development of medical care in the Netherlands, 1650-1900

Number: 
51
Author: 
Deneweth, H and Wallis, P.

This article examines the Dutch medical marketplace between 1650 and 1900 from a household’s perspective, based on the probate inventories database of the Meertens Institute. It offers the first quantitative analysis of demand for medical care in small towns and villages across the Netherlands. Our findings offer a substantial contrast to the well-known medical market in the Netherland’s major cities and might be more representative for general European patterns. We observe that different usage of medical care bears similarity to the households’ income, level of monetisation and engagement in commercial activities and other forms of non-essential consumption. While the pre-industrial era showed very outspoken differences in medical consumption between the commercialised maritime part of the Netherlands and the more autarchic inland region, patterns of medical consumption converged during the nineteenth century. These findings suggest that demand set a basic boundary for the further development of medical supply.