Allergy: The History of a Modern Malady

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It attacks through foods, animals, and innumerable chemical combinations. It is among the most common and potentially lethal afflictions known. It is the allergy, the subject of Mark Jackson’s fascinating chronicle.

Jackson investigates how the allergy became the archetypal “disease of civilization,” as it transformed from a fringe malady of the wealthy into one of the greatest medical disorders of the twentieth century. Jackson also examines the social and economic impact of the allergy, as it catalyzed a new health-conscious culture and created the wealth of some of the largest companies in the world today. Whether cats, crabgrass, or cheese is the source of your daily misery, Jackson’s engaging and in-depth account is an invaluable addition to every bookshelf.

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Editorial Reviews

Books & Culture
Splendidly done.

— J. Matthew Sleeth

Books & Culture - J. Matthew Sleeth

"Splendidly done."
Books & Culture

"Splendidly done."

— J. Matthew Sleeth

Library Journal
Jackson (history of medicine, Univ. of Exeter) traces the history of allergies, particularly asthma and hay fever, to demonstrate their growth from relatively uncommon diseases of the privileged classes to global syndromes. What led to their vast proliferation? Jackson considers improved methods of diagnosis and changes to indoor and outdoor environments; he also follows the evolution of the study of allergies into a clinical specialty and its practitioners' struggle for recognition and respect. Throughout, there is coverage of ongoing debates over the definition of allergy and how that definition has changed significantly over time. Numerous books have been written about the history of immunology, but none to this reviewer's knowledge that focuses specifically on allergies. To boot, Jackson looks beyond medical aspects to analyze social, cultural, political, geographical, and economic implications. This is heavy reading well worth the effort, with exhaustive references that contribute to the book's scholarly value. Highly recommended for academic, medical, and larger public libraries.-Tina Neville, Univ. of South Florida at St. Petersburg Lib. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
The Lancet
An important book because Jackson achieves a goal broadly shared, but infrequently realised, by current historians of medicine: to integrate biological and cultural events and to synchronise scientific change and social forces in a perceptive analysis. . . . a fine book.
New Scientist
As you snuffle through the next pollen season, you might be consoled by reading this fascinating book.

— Adrian Barnett

Journal of the American Medical Association
Social histories like this one provide a needed corrective to the reconstructions offered from the benefit of scientific hindsight. . . Jackson has provided a rich example of how allergy has undergone shifted meaning—scientific and social—as well as illustrating Western health care practices of the last century.

— Alfred I. Tauber

London Review of Books
He makes a convincing argument that to look on his subject in a straightforward way will not do, and it's impossible to understand allergy without placing it in the context of modern medicine. . . . Excellent account.

— Hugh Pennington

The Independent
Meticulously researched and written, and of undoubted value.

— Jeremy Laurance

The Guardian
Meticulously researched. . . . Jackson's fascinating study is undoubtedly an important contribution to the social history of medicine.
The book provides a perceptive insight into the historical development of allergy, indicating how thinking changes. It gives fascinating vignettes of key researchers involved in the history of allergy and contains some interesting anecdotes about their lives. . . . Jackson’s succinct and clearly written book is aimed at the informed lay reader. He admirably avoids using jargon and scientific terminology, and gives fascinating insight into the rise in allergic diseases and how this is linked to our modern lifestyle. I recommend this book, which helps us to understand the relationship between health and the environment, and explains why modern living can be detrimental to our health.

— Peter J. Barnes

Financial Times
Jackson is at his most alert on the recent history, real and metaphorical. This is as much a book about the modern imagination as about suffering. . . . Allergy, as Jackson demonstrates, is both a medical reality and a cultural phantasm.

— Brian Dillon

British Medical Journal
Wide ranging work. . . . Jackson illustrates his arguments with delightful reference to the culture and popular media of the day. . . . This book is a remarkable scholarly work that should serve as an exemplar of its genre.

— J. Henderson

Times Literary Supplement
A splendid book. . . . Conventional historians of immunology and bedside medicine may read Allergy with blinkers and find much sound scholarship, but it deserves a wider audience.

— Christopher Lawrence

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781861893338
  • Publisher: Reaktion Books, Limited
  • Publication date: 8/15/2007
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Mark Jackson is professor of the history of medicine and director for the Centre for Medical History at the University of Exeter. He is the author of several books, including The New-Born Child Murder and The Borderland of Imbecility.

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Table of Contents

1.  Histories
2.  Strange Reactions
3.  Allergy in the Clinic
4.  The Global Economy of Allergy
5.  Civilization and Disease
6.  Resisting Modernity
7.  Futures
Photo Acknowledgements
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