Communicating the history of medicine

Perspectives on audiences and impact

Historians interact with a variety of audiences. In the history of medicine – our focus – audiences include government committees and commissions dealing with ethical issues in biomedicine; journalists asking for historical perspectives on new discoveries as well as abuses and controversies in medicine; curators and visitors at museums; sometimes even medical researchers utilizing historical material. A particularly prominent audience for historians of medicine is in health care, students as well as practitioners. An important aim of the book is to challenge the idea that communication between researchers and their audiences is unidirectional. This is achieved by employing a media theoretical perspective to discuss how historians create audiences for academic knowledge production (‘audiencing’). The theme is opportune not least because the measurement of ‘impact’ is rapidly becoming a policy tool. The book’s 10 chapters explore the history of medicine’s relationships with its audiences, from the early twentieth century to the present. Throughout the authors discuss how historians of medicine and others have interacted with and impacted audiences. Topics include medical education, policy-making, exhibitions and museums, film and television.

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