Bodies Politic: Disease, Death, and Doctors in Britain, 1650-1900

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Overview

The renowned historian Roy Porter here takes us on an entertaining trip through more than two hundred years of visual and verbal accounts of the body and medicine. Focusing his attention for the first time on visual imagery, Porter examines the ways in which the sick and their healers were represented to the culture at large from the mid-seventeenth to the early twentieth century. The author combines erudition, a sharp sense of humor, and abundant art to show how contrasting conceptions of the healthy and diseased body were mapped onto antithetical notions of the good and the bad, the beautiful and the ugly. He juxtaposes images of disease to illustrations of medical practice, exploring self-presentations by physicians, surgeons, and quacks and showing how practitioners' public identities changed over time. Bodies Politic argues that the human body is the chief signifier and communicator of all manner of meanings—religious, moral, political, and medical alike—and that pre-scientific medicine was an art that depended heavily on performance, ritual, rhetoric, and theater. Throughout, Porter makes clear the wide metaphorical and symbolic implications of disease and doctoring.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This handsome book offers further insights into Roy Porter's extensive medical history of the 'long eighteenth century'. . . Lavish pictorial histories of medicine have become common lately, some of them offering little beyond their illustrations. Porter's account is solid and engaging, supported rather than dominated by the pictures. . . In offering his own analysis, Roy Porter also offers scope for variant interpretations."—Anne Crowther. Times Literary Supplement, February 15, 2002

"A riveting account. The great strength of this book lies in its use of visual material. Porter has made a fine attempt at helping us understand the past through caricature, illustrations and sketches as well as his own words. It is these images, by the likes of Cruikshank and Rowlandson, which make this such an excoriating account."—Catherine Pepinster, The Independent on Sunday

"His style at once grand and accessible, his knowledge expansive, his insights—while certainly contestable—provocative, Porter makes you think. Few have been as prolific or far-reaching in their work, and fewer still have been able to return to their subjects time and again with such grace and skill."—Virginia Quarterly Review, Vol. 78, No. 1

"The book is handsomely printed, and the reproductions are of good quality—an essential requirement in a book of this kind. Porter's knowledge of the material is unrivaled, and when he writes in unadorned fashion of the careers of doctors, writers and artists, he could hardly be bettered. Porter's book may be read with great pleasure and profit."—Anthony Daniels, Sunday Telegraph

"A magical history tour of illness and public attitudes to disease and doctors over the past 250 years. Dense with thought-provoking reflections and makes you realize how very much we remain at the mercy of all too fallible doctors."—Val Hennessy, Daily Mail

"Renowned historian Roy Porter here takes us on an entertaining trip through 250 years of visual and verbal accounts of the body and medicine. . . In Bodies Politic, Porter combines erudition, a sharp sense of humor, and abundant art to show how contrasting conceptions of the healthy and diseased body were mapped onto antithetical notions of the good and the bad, the beautiful and the ugly."—The Education Digest, August 2001

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801439537
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press
  • Publication date: 7/28/2001
  • Series: Picturing History Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 328
  • Product dimensions: 6.42 (w) x 9.44 (h) x 1.03 (d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements 8
Preface 9
1 Introductory: Framing the Picture 15
2 The Body Grotesque and Monstrous 35
3 The Body Healthy and Beautiful 63
4 Imagining Disease 89
5 Prototypes of Practitioners 129
6 Profiles of Patients 150
7 Outsiders and Intruders 171
8 Professional Problems 209
9 The Medical Politician and the Body Politic 229
10 Victorian Developments 250
Afterword 272
References 276
Select Bibliography 315
Photographic Acknowledgements 318
Index 319
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