The Effects of Civilisation on the People in European States/Original Preface
It may appear to many, that a man who has been enployed during his whole life in the study and practice of medicine, cannot be a fit person to write on a subject of a political nature. To such people the following considerations are submitted:—
That the Essay treats on the Effects of Civilisation on the mass of the people.
That the principal effect of civilisation is the reduction of the mass of the people in civilised societies to their present condition.
Of this condition—i. e., the mariner in which the people live—who has more opportunities of acquiring the knowledge, than a physician? He is admitted into the dwellings of all ranks of people, and into the innermost parts of them; he sees them by their fireside, at their tables, and in their beds; he sees them at work, and at their recreations; he sees them in health, in sickness, and in the article of death; he is frequently made acquainted with their hopes and their fears, their successes and their disappointments, as these have often a relation to their diseases; and, possessing their confidence, they also frequently unbosom themselves to him on matters not connected with the state of their healths. The physician, therefore, is put in possession of more facts with respect to the condition of the people than any other person; and it is only from the collection of such facts that we can arrive at the knowledge of the causes of them—for the investigation of which, his education peculiarly fits him.
For all these reasons, it seems a physician is the most proper person to treat on the subject of the following discourse.
Tavistock, April 30, 1805.