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Response to Review of Performing Medicine: Medical Culture and Identity in Provincial England, c.1760-1850

I would like to thank Dr Snow for her generous review of my work. I am especially grateful for her helpful synopsis of its main arguments and narrative structure. A few instances aside, she conveys much of the substance of the book, though not so much I hope that interested individuals will forego the experience of reading it for themselves. I am also delighted that she regards it as a ‘work of sophisticated research’ which makes ‘new and welcome contribution to the historiography’. I note, however, that Dr Snow wishes that the book were both what it is and also something else at the same time. This is the timeless gripe of the academic reader. We all, I am sure, have read books while thinking of what else they might be, of what else they might do or say. Sadly the author has no such luxury and though they might desire a ‘more expansive framework’ for their own work they must, by necessity, constrain their intellectual curiosity or ambition for the practical purposes of time, length and argumentative coherence. Thus, despite the fact that I am reasonably clear in my introduction as to what the interpretive and empirical limits of my book are, I sympathise with Dr Snow’s desire for an analysis of medical performance which deals with the practicalities of the doctor-patient relationship and the therapeutic corollaries of medical professionalism.  She may at least be reassured to know that such matters continue to form a substantial part of my research interests. More importantly, given that 19th-century Britain has proved to be a comparatively fallow field for medical historical research in recent years, certainly when compared with how vital it once was, I sincerely hope that there are others who would care to explore these diverse aspects of professional identity and performance. Though I can never expect to provide all the answers I am pleased, at least, to have provoked some new questions.