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.
Sandra Cavallo’s Artisans of the Body in Early Modern Italy will appeal to scholars interested in the social history of medicine for more than one reason.
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.
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.
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.
With The Royal Touch in Early Modern England: Politics, Medicine and Sin, Stephen Brogan offers a new understanding of the royal touch – the ability of kings and queens to miraculously heal their subjects of particular diseases in 16th and especially 17th-century England.
Good reference books on the history of alcohol remain few and far between, despite increased interest in the area in the last 20 years.