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The last 50 years have seen the establishment of paediatric gastroenterology, hepatology, and nutrition (PGHAN) as a well-recognised and thriving clinical specialty throughout most of Europe, and further afield. This has happened, in part, through the existence of the European Society for Paediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition (ESPGHAN) as a forum for those interested in this branch of children's medicine. To illustrate the pan-European roots of PGHAN, some key scientific and medical events, discoveries, and inventions relevant to 3 common clinical problems—diarrhoea, jaundice, and infant-feeding—have been chosen to survey the historical development of the ways in which each was understood and treated within the changing thinking and practice of past times. Together they are used to trace the prehistory of ESPGHAN and provide a background against which to explain the genesis of the Society and how its spheres of clinical and scientific interest came to be defined.