In this chapter, Torsten Riotte takes up the interaction between medical and political spheres in the context of nineteenth-century Germany, and poses questions about accountability, medical negligence, and the nature of individual and collective responsibility in relation to accidents. Beginning with the first recorded court case in 1811, when a doctor at the Berlin Charité hospital sued a colleague over the death of a female patient, Riotte draws upon the files of the so-called medical commissions (medical advisory boards to ministries of the interior in the German states) in order to analyse the professional and public debate that ensued and to engage in a discussion of medical negligence as an aspect of professional accountability. The emergence of medical courts of honour from the mid-1870s onwards, and the complementary development of liability insurance for doctors, illuminate the shifting moral, economic, and social structures in which medical practices were embedded.

in Progress and pathology
The Fowlers and modern brain disorder

In this chapter, Kristine Swenson turns to popular reform movements which arose in response to what mainstream medicine considered largely innate, unchangeable conditions. Drawing on the emergence of the American Fowler family – led by the brothers Orson and Lorenzo, their sister, Charlotte, and her husband Samuel Wells – as her central case study, Swenson considers the Fowlers’ empire of phrenological lecture tours, publishing, and therapeutics as a practice that not only kept phrenology in the public eye long after its dismissal from scientific practice, but also responded to the perceived ills of industrialised capitalism by touting progressive self-improvement and self-care. The Fowlers exploited the potential of phrenology as a form of practical self-help allied to hydropathy, dietetics, vegetarianism, dress reform, and temperance. As cultural fears of degeneration and race suicide spread, and the middle classes were increasingly seen as subject to the ‘modern illnesses’ of neurasthenia and dyspepsia, the Fowlers sought means of facilitating social and personal adjustment to the demands of a newly industrialised society. Their reform-oriented late-century phrenology promised personal improvement through proper living habits and ‘exercising’ of the faculties, and seemed to mitigate the harsh physiological and psychological consequences of Darwinian evolution and hereditary conditions.

in Progress and pathology
Hysterical tetanus in the Victorian South Pacific

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 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 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

This chapter scrutinises Hispanophobia in the historiography of the reign, arguing that not only has it overshadowed any positive reassessment but that it essentialises xenophobia as defining early modern England and reinforces the Black Legend denigration of Spain. It challenges alleged English insularity, pointing to accusations of devotion to everything foreign and embracing diversity. It both examines how the Marian period was invoked under Elizabeth and the role played by the architects of her religious settlement in fostering this image, and demonstrates that the co-monarchy saw no spike in Hispanophobia, but rather a tinge of nostalgia. Despite clever redeployment of anti-Spanish tropes, including associating Spain with Islam and Africa, Philip and Mary’s reign divided opinion and reflected fundamental ambivalence.

in Mary and Philip
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The book has argued for greater recognition of the joint reign’s importance from a constitutional, cultural, political and historical perspective, building on recent revisionist history and examining some of the reasons why it still comes as a surprise that England had a Spanish king in the mid-Tudor period. The fluidity and complexity of religious faith in the period has been flattened out by sectarian readings of the reign while its political arrangements have been simplified through the lens of nationalist history. The Anglo-Spanish court, far from lacking purpose, produced a ferment of creativity and innovation from cartography to theology, exploration and enterprise, music and art, literature and political thought.

in Mary and Philip

Unpicking the long association of Mary and her marriage with abrogation of English sovereignty, which historians have argued followed the reintroduction of papal jurisdiction, this chapter counters by showing how England’s imperial status was assured and extended by the marriage. It looks at the way the marriage contract’s terms and restrictions responded to anxieties about a regnant queen, analysing the law tenant by courtesy, contemporary legal commentary and the echoes of Ferdinand and Isabella’s contract. Mary made her decision in the face of widespread opposition amongst her household, the Privy Council and parliament. Finally, it counters the notion of Philip’s or Spanish unwillingness or hesitation, demonstrating their impossible financial position and reading Philip’s ad cautelam instrument as an understandable precaution.

in Mary and Philip
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The introduction examines the historiography of the Marian period and in particular the Spanish marriage, challenging negative assumptions about England’s first regnant queen and the denigration of her marriage to Philip II. It proposes a positive vision of Mary I’s co-monarchy and argues that anti-Catholic prejudice, notably in the Black Legend, has overshadowed this critical period in England’s political, cultural and constitutional development, obscuring the positive contribution made by England’s Spanish king. It traces the persistence of these negative stereotypes in popular culture and highlights this as a determining moment in our disciplinary division of history into ‘British’ and ‘European’. It concludes with a review of the glimmerings of this new vision in revisionist historiography over the last decade.

in Mary and Philip