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
Cancer, modernity, and decline in fin-de-siècle Britain
national decline and degeneration.
For Dunn and Heron the relationship between cancer and civilisation was unlike the conceptualisation of various diseases of poverty such as cholera, rickets, and typhoid. Cancer may have been a pathologyofprogress, but it was not caused by industrialisation and its well-known pathological corollaries: filth, overcrowding, lack of sunlight, and moral depravity. But rather, and somewhat paradoxically, the disease was an unintended consequence of civilisation and its attendant health
Melissa Dickson, Emilie Taylor-Brown and Sally Shuttleworth
presence as an unintended consequence of the public health successes of industrial modernity, such as lower infant mortality, increasing hospitalisation, and sanitary reforms. In these parallel, but conflicting, constructions of cancer as a pathologyofprogress, the disease itself emerged as a symptom of modern life that nonetheless manifested a national deterioration in health.
Another phenomenon discursively connected both to the conditions of modern life and to social degeneration and decline at the fin de siècle was suicide. The rise of the new
Health as moral economy in the long nineteenth century
By this standard the pathologiesofprogress are at a disadvantage. George Beard's neurasthenia, flagship of the conditions considered here (can we even call them diseases?), is no longer a medical entity, only a curious conceptual relic. Given that we have decided that the persons thus diagnosed had no such disease, must we throw out their whining? Without a way to validate what brings suffering persons to clinical encounters, we risk doing that. One sort of validation comes from subjectivity: we have suffered from analogous conditions
Dietary advice and agency in North America and Britain
W. B. Cannon, ‘Organization for physiological homeostasis’, Physiological Reviews , 9:3 (July 1929), 400.
U. Beck, Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity , trans. M. Ritter (London: Sage, 1992), p. 19.
C. E. Rosenberg, ‘Pathologiesofprogress: the idea of civilization as risk’, Bulletin
Narratives of balance and moderation at the limits of human
many ‘diseases of civilization’, see C. E. Rosenberg, ‘Pathologiesofprogress: the idea of civilization as risk’, Bulletin of the History of Medicine , 72 (1998), 714–30.
Jackson, The Age of Stress , p. 18. See also the explicit formulation of ‘acclimatization versus tolerance’ in the extensive mid-century bibliography put together for the US Air Force in the context of space flight and aviation research: J. T. Celentano, H. B