New Medical Challenges during the Scottish Enlightenment
Guenter B. Risse
New Medical Challenges explores a wide range of social and medical practices, exposing the contradictions and ambiguities found in eighteenth-century Scottish health, science and medicine. The overall picture casts further light on the nature of the Enlightenment as a cultural phenomenon.
Commercial society created new jobs, wealth and desires, that threatened contemporary values and physical health. Both luxury and poverty took their toll, spawning disease among the affluent and the poor. A number of key issues are examined, including the role of charity, medical debates and competition, vivisection, and diseases of the time – such as ‘pulmonary consumption’, ‘mill reek’ and ‘ague’. Special chapters are devoted to ‘female troubles’, ‘hysteria’ and ‘hypochondriasis’, showing the evolving relationships across gender and class lines between poor patients and their physicians.
To place medical ideas and practices into proper context, the essays offer extensive background information and rediscover the lost voices of prominent physicians involved in promoting health and battling illness. Thanks to the richness of seldom-tapped archival sources – book manuscripts, consultation letters, hospital registration and management records, together with student essays, lecture notes and notebooks – the selected episodes expose a world of uncertainty, confusion and paradox.
New Medical Challenges tells a wide range of stories that will be of great interest to a broad readership concerned with past health issues.