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Doody's Review ServiceReviewer: Sandy Sufian, PhD, MPH (Oregon Health and Science University)
Description: This book makes a unique contribution to the field of the history of medicine.
Purpose: It critically reviews the "continuing, contested dynamics" of modern medicine to explore how its multiple meanings and manifestations have been negotiated during the last century.
Audience: The chapters are accessible to an audience ranging from history of medicine scholars and healthcare professionals to students of history, medicine, and the allied health professions. This book should be used for research purposes and as a standard teaching tool.
Features: The work not only describes broad shifts and key characteristics in the history of twentieth-century medicine but also successfully illustrates how modern medicine shaped and was shaped by certain political, social, cultural, and economic contexts. The chapters span such well-researched themes as medicine, labor, and the welfare state, medical professionalism and technologies, to less commonly addressed but equally noteworthy subjects as representations of people with physical and mental disabilities, infertility, immunity, and old age. The contributors are highly respected scholars who produce clear, historical narratives about the "material, conceptual, social, cultural, and intellectual" ways in which medicine throughout the twentieth century has impacted the human condition.
Assessment: A significant yet acknowledged limitation remains the book's cursory attention to the interaction of biomedicine with non-Western and/or religious forms of medicine and to non-Western discourses on health and disease. In addition, thorough examinations of intra/inter-ethnic relations in the field of health and the histories of medical education are lacking. The strength, nevertheless, lies in the book's ability to coherently bring together a wide range of perspectives that reveal how medical conceptions and agendas of the period provide a basis for understanding developments in the twenty-first century. Analyzing twentieth-century medicine in this manner is an endeavor that, as far as I am aware, has not been attempted until this book.