Lea Doughty

National Archives of Australia/Australian Historical Association postgraduate scholar, 2017–18


Military Medicines: military pharmacy and medicine supply to the Anzac forces, 1914–1918

Biographical note

Lea Doughty is a PhD candidate at the School of Pharmacy, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand. Her project, supervised by Dr Susan Heydon, Professor Darryl Tong (Otago) and Dr Peter Hobbins (University of Sydney), examines the experience and role development of ANZAC military pharmacists and the supply of medicines to the troops during World War I. She is particularly interested in the intersections and tensions between institutions of conflict and health.

Project summary

Medicines are usually invisible and taken for granted until suddenly they are not available. As such, the practice of pharmacy within a military context and the supply of medicines and therapeutics during times of conflict are areas of historiography that have been overlooked.

Trade in medicines was one of the earliest industries to be globalised, and Germany was the main supply for synthetic drugs such as aspirin, phenacetin, the anti-syphilitic Salvarsan, Veronal and formalin, all of which were developing and became available from the late nineteenth century. Medical-grade opium for the production of morphine was sourced from Turkey. At the outbreak of war in 1914, access to these products by the Allies was abruptly curtailed, resulting in immediate shortages and potential direct medical consequences.

The records in the National Archives' collection will be used to underpin aspects of the supply chain that are currently poorly understood. It is anticipated that the records will help to illuminate the process of purchasing from external suppliers, as well as the logistics involved in shipping through the lines of communication to the end destination. The availability of these records, in turn, may be of ongoing value to medical, military and economic historians seeking to understand the clinical, political and commercial basis for large-scale pharmaceutical manufacture in early twentieth-century Australia.

Copyright National Archives of Australia 2019