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Hysterical tetanus in the Victorian South Pacific
Daniel Simpson

In this chapter, Daniel Simpson delineates a complex model of imperial and cultural entanglement in the context of the death of the naval captain James Graham Goodenough under a hail of poisonous arrows on the Santa Cruz Islands in 1875. This was a moment in which previously vague British fears of the poisons of Santa Cruz were seemingly confirmed. However, the ship’s surgeon, Adam Brunton Messer, pointed to certain medical, cultural, and environmental factors that countered this popular hysteria. Superstitious dread of the reputed poisons of the region, Messer argued, had predisposed British sailors to a nervous irritability which either mimicked or encouraged the onset of tetanus. Furthermore, he insisted, endemic neurosis amongst sailors was responsible for the increasing prevalence of tetanus in the wounds of those struck by ostensibly poisonous arrows. Drawing upon new psychopathological understandings of the relations between mind and body, Messer effectively collapsed any distinctions between ‘civilised’ and ‘uncivilised’ peoples clashing in the South Pacific by imagining that modern medical education might work in both cases to supplant antiquated superstitions and anecdotal evidence. His medical hypotheses, deployed at a juncture of intense intercultural contact, served both to characterise and to realise a form of medical modernity.

in Progress and pathology
Open Access (free)
Medicine and culture in the nineteenth century

This collaborative volume explores changing perceptions of health and disease in the context of the burgeoning global modernities of the long nineteenth century. During this period, popular and medical understandings of the mind and body were challenged, modified, and reframed by the politics and structures of ‘modern life’, understood in industrial, social, commercial, and technological terms. Bringing together work by leading international scholars, this volume demonstrates how a multiplicity of medical practices were organised around new and evolving definitions of the modern self. The study offers varying and culturally specific definitions of what constituted medical modernity for practitioners around the world in this period. Chapters examine the ways in which cancer, suicide, and social degeneration were seen as products of the stresses and strains of ‘new’ ways of living in the nineteenth century, and explore the legal, institutional, and intellectual changes that contributed to both positive and negative understandings of modern medical practice. The volume traces the ways in which physiological and psychological problems were being constituted in relation to each other, and to their social contexts, and offers new ways of contextualising the problems of modernity facing us in the twenty-first century.

Open Access (free)
The French human sciences and the crafting of modern subjectivity, 1794–1816
Laurens Schlicht

Laurens Schlicht opens the volume at the moment of the French Revolution, which inculcated a profound sense of moral and political shock within its citizens. Writers within medicine, politics, and the developing human sciences maintained that it had been necessary to inflict this kind of shock in order to dismantle the rigid structures of society and make way for a radically new regime. Sustained metaphors of the medicalised human body, the social body, and the body politic commingled in the critical questions that were raised about the relationship between individuals and their wider social collective, and about the ways in which the passions might be either stirred into action or carefully regulated by external influences. Manifestations of this conscious interaction between medical and political spheres included the emergent psychiatric practice of intentionally shocking patients as a form of therapy, and the evolving instruction of deaf-mute pupils, as schools and asylums provided experimental spaces for controlling and adjusting the passions. In addition to an overt politicisation of the body and its responses to shock and strain, these discussions carried sustained analyses of the medicalised human body, and informed an evolving scientific practice directed towards an essentialised sphere of individuality.

in Progress and pathology
Open Access (free)
Health as moral economy in the long nineteenth century
Christopher Hamlin

Christopher Hamlin takes up the unstable and often polarised relationship between cultural experience and interpretation on the one hand, and biomedical objectivity on the other. In so doing, he draws attention to a phenomenon which is so frequently missing from current scholarship: embodied subjectivity. The chapter ranges widely from public health archives to literary texts, interrogating E. P. Thompson’s seminal concept of the ‘moral economy’ through the social history of health, and questioning how we might meaningfully register the experiences of those whose words and emotions are lost to history. Questioning the very voices and vocabularies through which the social history of health is constructed, Hamlin recognises both the usefulness and the limitations of our approaches to illness and the history of medicine, while adopting an integrative, holistic approach to notions of disease. Paralleling the historical figure of the nuisance inspector with the gamekeeper (or lover) in D. H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover, and the tales of patients of Hardwicke Hospital, Dublin, with the complaints of Agnes Fleming in Charles Dickens’s Oliver Twist, he opens up the possibilities of work which crosses literary and medical histories as a context in which the formation of an embodied subjectivity might be considered.

in Progress and pathology
Ludmilla Jordanova

Chapter 10 is a comment on the book as a whole that addresses its central questions against the backdrop of the long history of history of medicine and its audiences, and with particular reference to the issue of ‘public history’. The author suggests that public history, designating the interface between academic history and all of its potential audiences, would be a promising field of study to further develop the themes of the book.

in Communicating the history of medicine
Historiographical and research political reflections
Lene Koch

This chapter discusses the reception of recent historical work on eugenics and compulsory sterilization in Denmark. The contrast between the media’s view of this work as a criticism of eugenics and the author’s view of it as an attempt to study eugenics on its own historical terms is discussed as an example of a complicated case of ‘audiencing’. The chapter further attempts to historicize the notion of grand societal challenges in science. The fear of degeneration of the genetic quality of the population was one such grand challenge in the early twentieth century, when the effects of scientists’ perceived social responsibility in actively promoting eugenics had very undesirable results.

in 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.

Teaching medical history to medical students
Frank Huisman

This chapter discusses a specific audience category for medical history: medical students. It explains the institutional context and the didactic choices made for the medical humanities course of the Utrecht medical curriculum, of which medical history is an integral part. By way of example, it elaborates on scientific literacy: a topic suggested by the academic reform movement Science in Transition. The chapter shows how the course tries to create reflexive citizen-physicians, defined as medical professionals with an awareness of the complex demands made by contemporary health care and society.

in Communicating the history of medicine
Abstract only
Practice, institutionalization and disciplinary context of history of medicine in Germany
Ylva Söderfeldt and Matthis Krischel

Medical school curricula have led to the institutionalization of the discipline of History, Theory and Ethics in Medicine in Germany. This has provided historians with access to medical audiences, but at the same time subjected them to assessment criteria that poorly reflect the quality of historical research. In adapting to this, historians of medicine have chosen strategies that serve the gathering of impact points at the cost of contributing to historical research.

in Communicating the history of medicine
Abstract only
Audiences and stakeholders in the history of medicine
Solveig Jülich and Sven Widmalm

The introduction discusses history of medicine and its audiences from media-theoretical (‘audiencing’) and policy (‘impact’) perspectives. The chapters of the book are contextualized from these perspectives.

in Communicating the history of medicine