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A cultural history of stress in twentieth-century Britain
Author: Jill Kirby

Drawing on a wealth of sources including self-help books, Mass Observation diaries and directives, oral history interviews, social science research and popular culture, Feeling the strain examines why stress became the ubiquitous explanation for a range of everyday ills by the end of the twentieth century in Britain. It explores the popular, vernacular discourse of nerves and stress to uncover how ordinary people understood, explained and coped with the pressures and strains of daily life and illuminates not only how stress was known, but the ways in which that knowledge was produced.

By focusing on contemporary popular understandings, it reveals continuity of ideas about work, mental health, status, gender and individual weakness, as well as the socio-economic contexts that enabled stress to become the accepted explanation for a wide range of daily experiences. It foregrounds continuities in managing stress and changes in ideas about causation, revealing a vocabulary of ‘nerves’ and ‘nervous disorders’ as precursors to stress but also illustrating the mutability of the stress concept and how its very imprecision gave it utility.

Feeling the strain provides first-hand accounts from sufferers, families and colleagues and offers insight into self-help literature, the meanings of work and changing dynamics of domestic life over the century, delivering a complementary perspective to medical histories of stress and making a significant contribution to histories of everyday life and emotion in Britain during the twentieth century.

Author: Emily Cock

This book explores seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Britain’s experiences with and responses to the surgical reconstruction of the nose, and the concerns and possibilities raised by the idea of ‘nose transplants’ in this period. Challenging histories of plastic surgery that posit a complete disappearance of Gaspare Tagliacozzi’s reconstructive operation after his death in 1599, the book traces the actual extent of this knowledge within the medical community in order to uncover why such a procedure was anathema to early modern British culture. Medical knowledge of Tagliacozzi’s autograft rhinoplasty was overtaken by a spurious story, widely related in contemporary literature, that the nose would be constructed from flesh purchased from a social inferior, and would die with the vendor. The volume therefore explores this narrative in detail for its role in the procedure’s stigmatisation, its engagement with the doctrine of medical sympathy, and its attempt to commoditise living human flesh. Utilising medical research and book histories alongside literary criticism, the project historicises key modern questions about the commodification and limits of the human body, the impact of popular culture on medical practice, and the ethical connotations of bodily modification as response to stigma.

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A transatlantic history of English civil law and lunacy
Author: James E. Moran

This book reinterprets the history of madness by examining the powerful influence of civil law on understandings of and responses to madness in England and in the North American territory of New Jersey. The influence of civil law on the history of madness has not hitherto been a topic of major academic investigation. Lunacy investigation law (that body of laws encompassing trials in lunacy, chancery court proceedings, proceedings in guardianship and trials of traverse) had its origins in fourteenth-century England. By the eighteenth century, English architects of the civil law had developed a sophisticated legal response to those among the propertied classes who suffered from madness. Lunacy investigation law was also transported successfully along imperial pathways and built into the legal frameworks of several colonies, including New Jersey. In New Jersey a rare and extensive collection of lunacy trials are explored to uncover how customary understandings of and responses to madness were tightly connected to the structures of civil law. The richness of these legal documents allows for an assessment of how civil law, customary responses and institutional alternatives to caring for the mad were balanced in this North American setting before and during the asylum era. Through its analysis of historical precedent, the book also offers insights into on-going contemporary concerns about mental capacity and guardianship.

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.

Editor: John Cunningham

This collection offers important new insights across a broad range of topics relating to medicine in Early Modern Ireland. Of particular note is the substantial attention devoted to the years before 1750, a period that has been relatively neglected in studies of Irish medicine. The book brings together an exciting selection of established scholars, such as Peter Elmer and Clodagh Tait, as well as a number of early career historians. Their work effectively situates Irish medicine in relation to long-term social and cultural change on the island, as well as to appropriate international contexts, encompassing Britain, Europe and the Atlantic World. The chapters also engage in various ways with important aspects of the historiography of medicine in the twenty-first century. Among the key subjects addressed by the contributors are Gaelic medicine, warfare, the impact of new medical ideas, migration, patterns of disease, midwifery and childbirth, book collecting, natural history, and urban medicine. A common thread running through the chapters is the focus on medical practitioners. The book accordingly enables significant new understanding of the character of medical practise in Early Modern Ireland. This collection will be of interest to academics and students of the history of Early Modern medicine. It also contains much that will be essential reading for historians of Ireland.

Open Access (free)
Sex, family planning and British female doctors in transnational perspective, 1920–70

Women’s medicine explores the key role played by British female doctors in the production and circulation of contraceptive knowledge and the handling of sexual disorders between the 1920s and 1970s at the transnational level, taking France as a point of comparison. This study follows the path of a set of women doctors as they made their way through the predominantly male-dominated medical landscape in establishing birth control and family planning as legitimate fields of medicine. This journey encompasses their practical engagement with birth control and later family planning clinics in Britain, their participation in the development of the international movement of birth control and family planning and their influence on French doctors. Drawing on a wide range of archived and published medical materials, this study sheds light on the strategies British female doctors used, and the alliances they made, to put forward their medical agenda and position themselves as experts and leaders in birth control and family planning research and practice.

A history of child development in Britain
Author: Bonnie Evans

This book explains the current fascination with autism by linking it to a longer history of childhood development. Drawing from a staggering array of primary sources, it traces autism back to its origins in the early twentieth century and explains why the idea of autism has always been controversial and why it experienced a 'metamorphosis' in the 1960s and 1970s. The book locates changes in psychological theory in Britain in relation to larger shifts in the political and social organisation of schools, hospitals, families and childcare. It explores how government entities have dealt with the psychological category of autism. The book looks in detail at a unique children's 'psychotic clinic' set up in London at the Maudsley Hospital in the 1950s. It investigates the crisis of government that developed regarding the number of 'psychotic' children who were entering the public domain when large long-stay institutions closed. The book focuses on how changes in the organisation of education and social services for all children in 1970 gave further support to the concept of autism that was being developed in London's Social Psychiatry Research Unit. It also explores how new techniques were developed to measure 'social impairment' in children in light of the Seebohm reforms of 1968 and other legal changes of the early 1970s. Finally, the book argues that epidemiological research on autism in the 1960s and 1970s pioneered at London's Institute of Psychiatry has come to define global attempts to analyse and understand what, exactly, autism is.

The past, present and future of hospital infection, prevention and control

Infection control is one of the twenty-first century’s most challenging health problems, as witnessed by global debates about microbial resistance and several high-profile hospital infection scandals. This interdisciplinary volume brings together work from leading historians, researchers, healthcare professionals and policy makers to consider the history, practice and future of hospital infection control in the UK. Through personal reflections, historical case studies, policy debates and accounts of specific hospitals this volume explores the roles of technology, healthcare professions, emotional attitudes, and human factors and ergonomics in the translation of scientific knowledge into clinical practice. These insights into the theory and practice of infection control in the operating room, bedside, laboratory and boardroom, provide vital reading not only for historians of medicine, practitioners and policy makers, but also for researchers in the arts, humanities and social sciences.

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)
Mass vaccination and the public since the Second World War
Author: Gareth Millward

Vaccinating Britain investigates the relationship between the British public and vaccination policy since 1945. It is the first book to examine British vaccination policy across the post-war period and covers a range of vaccines, providing valuable context and insight for those interested in historical or present-day public health policy debates. Drawing on government documents, newspapers, internet archives and medical texts it shows how the modern vaccination system became established and how the public played a key role in its formation. British parents came to accept vaccination as a safe, effective and cost-efficient preventative measure. But occasional crises showed that faith in the system was tied to contemporary concerns about the medical profession, the power of the state and attitudes to individual vaccines. Thus, at times the British public demanded more comprehensive vaccination coverage from the welfare state; at others they eschewed specific vaccines that they thought were dangerous or unnecessary. Moreover, they did not always act uniformly, with “the public” capable of expressing contradictory demands that were often at odds with official policy. This case study of Britain’s vaccination system provides insight into the relationship between the British public and the welfare state, as well as contributing to the historiography of public health and medicine.