When confronted with the term 'Illustrated' in a book title, how many historians, I wonder, would not be tempted to inwardly scoff and mentally store the book on the coffee table of their departmental common room? This review begins with a warning against such sentiments.
This is a timely collection of essays that sets out to address a key relationship in early modern historiography.
Over the past few years, no doubt as a consequence of HIV/AIDS newspapers have been full of stories about the threat from plagues some such as TB and bubonic plague appear like spectres from the past while apparently new diseases such as E-coli and the Ebola virus threaten to run riot in the future. It is against such a background that Christopher Wills has published Plagues.
Reflections on the history of medicine in the second half of the twentieth century make much of the discipline's break with its association with the history of science, and the development of the new approaches and interests signalled by the coming of the 'social history of medicine'.
The history of public health has been a flourishing field in the last three decades. Yet despite a spate of excellent monographs about various epidemic diseases and many good collections about health and disease in Africa, Asia, The Middle East, Latin America, as well as Europe and North America, the most recent textbook on the history of public health is four decades old.
Margaret Pelling, author ofThe Common Lot: Sickness, Medical Occupations and the Urban Poor in Early Modern England (London: Longman, 1998) and currently Reader in the Social History of Medicine at the University of Oxford, has produced a new volume in the Oxford Studies in Social History series, Medical Conflicts in Early Modern London.
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.
In spite of its intellectual, literary and comic brilliance, this book contains a dark and disturbing, but revealing, message. In some ways, my melancholy reading of Bodies Politic has inevitably been shaped by Roy's recent untimely death. Roy Porter was without doubt the finest social historian of medicine this country, or indeed the world, has produced.
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.
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.