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'.
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.
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.
This interdisciplinary collection of essays, emerging from a conference held at Oxford University and edited by scholars with interests in literature and medicine in early modern England, seeks to establish how the inhabitants of late medieval and early modern Western Europe defined blood, and to uncover how references to blood were deployed in descriptions of the human condition across various