Etching by Woodward entitled `The Surgeons Petition or The Barbers Triumphant'. Published August 7th 1797 by S.W. Fores, Piccadilly. Size 36.5cmx26cm.
In 1700s England, surgeons and barber-surgeons competed for business and clients. In 1745, surgeons separated from the Company of Barber-Surgeons to form their own company. In 1797, they petitioned Parliament to establish a College with the aim of raising their professional status, but were defeated mainly thanks to a speech by Lord Thurlow. This print shows the surgeons petitioning Lord Thurlow for the sole rights to perform surgical procedures. The bill is signed with names that have surgical associations, such as ‘Simon Slash’. The surgeons were attempting to raise their social status, which explains their dress.
The artist of the print was George Moutard Woodward (c. 1760-1809), who specialised in caricatures.