“A Legal History of Vaccination and English Law (1813–1853)”

November 2nd, 2011

One day I hope to write more about individual liberty and compulsory vaccinations. This article may be of some use.

This paper examines the historical role of law and politics in the adoption of smallpox vaccination in Britain, focusing primarily on the early Victorian period, when legislation was passed to enforce compulsory infantile vaccination. The primary thesis of the study is that law, and the processes through which it is created and maintained, provide a distinct “envelope of social order” (Jasanoff 2008, 764) within which competing and duelling interests and opinions about scientific innovation find origin, expression, and debate. Consequently, the manner in which law responds to science and its impact on society is neither static nor self-evident, but subject to mutable circumstances that are historically, politically, and socially situated. The paper is divided into two main parts. The first provides a brief history of vaccination and the second focuses on events surrounding the introduction of compulsory vaccination laws in England and Wales.