This collaborative volume explores changing perceptions of health and disease in
the context of the burgeoning global modernities of the long nineteenth century.
During this period, popular and medical understandings of the mind and body were
challenged, modified, and reframed by the politics and structures of ‘modern
life’, understood in industrial, social, commercial, and technological terms.
Bringing together work by leading international scholars, this volume
demonstrates how a multiplicity of medical practices were organised around new
and evolving definitions of the modern self. The study offers varying and
culturally specific definitions of what constituted medical modernity for
practitioners around the world in this period. Chapters examine the ways in
which cancer, suicide, and social degeneration were seen as products of the
stresses and strains of ‘new’ ways of living in the nineteenth century, and
explore the legal, institutional, and intellectual changes that contributed to
both positive and negative understandings of modern medical practice. The volume
traces the ways in which physiological and psychological problems were being
constituted in relation to each other, and to their social contexts, and offers
new ways of contextualising the problems of modernity facing us in the
Melissa Dickson, Emilie Taylor-Brown and Sally Shuttleworth
This particular diseaseofmodernlife carried different meanings in different social, cultural, and political contexts.
Part of the function of this collection, then, is to register both the disciplinary convergences that give rise to such diagnoses, and the varying and culturally specific conditions of what constituted medical modernity around the world. Nineteenth-century anxieties about health and modernity have attracted a good deal of attention in recent scholarship, much of this focusing upon discrete disease
Health as moral economy in the long nineteenth century
a limited time a fourth more work’, and dying earlier by exactly that proportion.
Yet the protests do not come from the victims who ‘silently pine and die’, but from humanitarian investigators.
In his extended treatment, DiseasesofModernLife (1882), Richardson embraced the stresses of intellectual and artistic work. In the case of manual labourers, ‘who wear out by such action itself, or by the addition of certain
effective medical therapies, they are preferable to extreme and dangerous therapies.
The Fowlers’ negotiation of medicine and modernity was decidedly uneven. While not denying the diseasesofmodernlife or the evolutionary correlation between progress and pathology, the Fowlers offered a medical paradigm and system of treatments that lessened the weight of modernity upon the individual. They triumphed in the modern arenas of market capitalism and information dissemination, advocating a radical individualism that promised greater agency in modern
-Vibration and Excitation as Agents in the Treatment of Functional Disorder and Organic Disease (London: J. & A. Churchill, 1883), 11.
G. Beddoes, Habit and Health: A Book of Golden Hints for Middle Age (London: Swan, Sonnenschein & Co, 1890), pp. xv–xvi
B. Ward Richardson, DiseasesofModernLife
degenerative influences and diseasesofmodernlife, and was thus a weapon of social hygiene. It cut across class lines
too: natural and artificial sunlight was enthusiastically aimed onto rich
and poor alike, curatively and preventively, via local free and private
clinics, hospitals, schools (especially open-air schools, enthusiastically
promoted by the National Association for the Prevention of Tuberculosis),
outdoor parks and