Alternative Medicine?: A History

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What is 'alternative' medicine? Why is it so popular today?

And is its popularity really such a recent phenomenon?

From acupuncture in Regency England to homeopathy in the 'Wild West', Bivins unearths the roots of today's distinctions between alternative, complementary, and orthodox medicine, and shows how popular interest in medical alternatives-often of exotic origin-is a phenomenon with a long and fascinating pedigree.

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Editorial Reviews

Doody's Review Service
Reviewer: Lisa A Ennis, MA, MS (University of Alabama at Birmingham)
Description: Written by Roberta Bivins, Wellcome Lecturer in the History of Medicine at Cardiff University, this is a fascinating examination of the historical arguments for and against alternative medicine as well as the methods and means of the transmission of medical knowledge between cultures.
Purpose: Drawing from her own childhood experiences as inspiration, the author skillfully explores the "processes of medical and historical change through the eyes of the medical professionals and consumers of the day," from the seventeenth into the twentieth century. The author's adept use of primary resources and extended quotes and examples allows her to show how alternative medical techniques and ideas traveled from culture to culture as well as to delve into the reactions and motivations of both medical professionals and consumers. The work fills a void in medical and social history by not only examining alternative medicine but by examining it within social and cultural spheres.
Audience: The author's work is scholarly both in content and structure while being accessible to both professional historians and students. With such a timely topic and such a well researched and written work, the quality of the scholarship should not be a barrier.
Features: Organized into six lengthy chapters as well as an in-depth annotated further reading section, the book covers both the mainstream and alternative medical worlds of Western Europe, China, and India. Peppered throughout are 24 illustrations, beginning with one from 1503 and ending with an advertisement from 1909.
Assessment: This well written and painstakingly researched book would enhance any history of medicine collection.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199543762
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 8/20/2010
  • Pages: 264
  • Sales rank: 876,014
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 7.70 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Roberta Bivins is Wellcome Lecturer in the History of Medicine at Cardiff University. Born in Massachusetts, she spent much of her childhood in Nigeria and has first-hand experience with non-orthodox medical practice in the Third World.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations xvi

Introduction: 'Rival System of Medicine'? 1

1 'What is this Burning?' 41

2 Health and 'The New Science' 79

3 'The Chinese Have a Great Deal of Wit' 107

4 'With Our Western Brethren, the Case Seems to be Quite Different' 135

Conclusion: Pragmatism, Pluralism, and the (Im) Patient-Consumer 171

Further Reading 201

Notes 209

Index 225

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