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Medicine in television period drama

This collection examines the representation of medicine and medical practices in period drama on television. It explores the fascination that the genre has with the history of illness and the medical profession, which is apparent in the huge number of shows which have medicine as either their narrative focus or as important subplots. Chapter topics are interdisciplinary in nature and range from the professionalisation of medicine in Poldark to the representation of mental illness in Peaky Blinders. This volume reflects on the ways popular culture has constructed and considered the frailty of the human body, the progress – or otherwise – of science, the intersection of medicine, race, class, and gender, and the provision of public healthcare. These dramas do not only reveal much about how we view our corporeal past, however. All these issues are still pertinent today, and frequently they also function as a commentary on, and often a critique of, the issues surrounding medicine in the present day – in particular debates around public health provision, the politics of reproduction, genetic testing and research, and global pandemics.

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Byrne Katherine, Taddeo Julie Anne, and Leggott James

This Introduction provides an overview of the collection of chapters, situates the book within the existing scholarship on medical television, and argues for the relevance of period TV in presenting the history of medicine as well as engaging with contemporary fears and debates about disease, the body, scientific research, professionalisation and the power of ‘the expert’, and more. A brief description of each chapter and the dramas under analysis (Outlander, Poldark, The Knick, Mercy Street, La Peste, A Place to Call Home, Penny Dreadful, Peaky Blinders, etc.) is provided.

in Diagnosing history