This paper reviews the development of nursing in Britain in the light of an assumption that professional groups will seek to gain autonomy and control over others. Such an assumption is familiar to sociologists who tend also to argue that autonomy and control are gained via the creation of dependency. It is shown here that nurses have pursued a different occupational strategy, elements of which include subordination to doctors, acceptance of a wide range of tasks, and, in particular, routinization of their work. A range of reasons, both historical and contemporary, are suggested for this. Although not necessarily recognized in the form described here, the strategy of nursing is a coherent solution to a particular set of circumstances and eventualities.