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Students of history are not always aware when they live through major historiographic change; shifts are sometimes only recognizable in hindsight, with accumulated divergences sharply evident against the backdrop of the field.
In 1974, David Hey published his book on Myddle in Shropshire, a study based upon his doctoral research at Leicester University. One might wonder how a proud South Yorkshireman had even heard of an insignificant North Shropshire parish, let alone decided to carry out research on it. Fortunately, his supervisor, Professor W. G.
Good reference books on the history of alcohol remain few and far between, despite increased interest in the area in the last 20 years.
As Ferngren explains in the opening pages: ‘My purpose in this volume is to provide a concise but comprehensive survey that traces the history of the intersection of medicine and healing with religious traditions in the Western world from the earliest civilizations of Mesopotamia and Egypt to our own era’; a sizeable task to say the least.
The Oxford Handbook of the History of Medicine appears at a critical moment for medical history; in a period when its practitioners are being forced to re-evaluate their aims and agendas in the face of shifting funding priorities and disciplinary angst. Just a few years, one leading medical historian publicly declared that medical history was ‘dead’, or was at least heading that way.
The concept of contagion is entangled with so many themes in the history of medicine that any on-line collection on the subject can hardly fail to generate interest among the scholarly community. Harvard University’s Contagion: Historical Views of Disease and Epidemics does not disappoint.
Once upon a time there was smallpox. One of the most loathsome diseases ever to afflict human kind, smallpox not only killed but maimed. Death rates were typically between 25 and 30 per cent, and survivors might not only be blinded and their skins scarred and pitted from the pocks, but they also suffered internal tissue damage that affected lung function and other life processes.
This collection of 12 essays originated in a number of conference papers addressing the theme 'History from Below: the Urban Poor and the Reception of Medicine and Charity in Western European Cities'. The essays in the book examine the consumption of health and welfare in Britain, or more accurately, in England, with the main chronological focus being on the 19th and 20th centuries.
Early-modern Europe (here covering the years from 1492 to 1750) was constantly beset by plagues of all kinds. Scarcely a year passed in western Europe until the 1720s without an outbreak of ‘pestilence’, and scarcely a decade without a major epidemic that killed ten, twenty, or even forty per cent of the community. Expansion brought with it new dangers.
It is not often that a tutor is handed an entire course on a plate, ready for consumption, served up complete with material for the lectures, case studies, points for seminar discussion, essay questions, as well as primary and secondary readings for student use. But that is exactly what the pair of books under review provide.