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Week 9: Negotiating the medical marketplace

Lecturer: Roberta Bivins

Choice has always been central to matters of heath preservation and healing. Practitioners choose ways of conceptualising, knowing and treating the body; patients adopt particular systems of healing, seek out expert help, and choose to treat or ignore their illnesses; organisations and states selectively incorporate, regulate, and fund medical systems, practices and institutions. All operate in what historians have come to call the ‘medical marketplace’. This week we will explore the ways in which patients in particular have navigated the flood of providers, products, medical systems, and therapeutic spaces available to them. From ‘quackery’ to ‘orthodoxy’ to self-medication, how and what do medical consumers choose?

Discussion Questions/Essay Topics:

  • Assess the degree to which the 20th century ‘medical marketplace’ reflects continuities with or changes from ‘medical marketplaces’ in earlier period
  • Assess the following quote in terms of the history of ‘alternative’ medicine: ‘Modern medicine ... wants not dogma but facts… Science once embraced, will conquer the whole’. [Abraham Flexner, Medical Education in the United States and Canada Bulletin Number Four (New York City, 1910), p. 161]

Required Reading:

Roberta Bivins, 'Health and the New Science' in R. Bivins, Alterative Medicine? A History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), pp. 79-106. Hi All: use the link just below to go to our course extracts page, and then scroll down to my last name, and click that link. You should go straight to the reading!

Nancy Tomes, ‘Antisepticonscious America’, in Nancy Tomes, The Gospel of Germs: Men, Women and the Microbe in American Life (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998) pp. 157-182. e-book

Further Readings:

On Alternative Medicine (a very small sample of a very large literature: come see me if you are interested in a specific topic):

Joseph S. Alter (ed.), Asian Medicine and Globalization (Philadelphia, 2005).

Roberta Bivins, Alternative Medicine? A History (Oxford, 2007)

W.F. Bynum and Roy Porter, Medical Fringe and Medical Orthodoxy 1750-1850 (London, 1987)

Roger Cooter, ed., Studies in the History of Alternative Medicine (Basingstoke, 1988).

Martin Dinges (ed.), Patients in the History of Homeopathy (Sheffield, 2002).

Waltraud Ernst (ed.), Plural Medicine, Tradition and Modernity, 1800–2000 (London, 2002).

Norman Gevitz, ed., Other Healers: Unorthodox Medicine in America (Baltimore, 1988).

Marijke Gisjwijt-Hofstra, Hilary Marland and Hans de Waardt (eds), Illness and Healing Alternatives in Western Europe (London, 1997).

Philippa Martyr, Paradise of Quacks: An Alternative History of Medicine in Australia (Sydney, 2002).

Phillip A Nicholls, Homeopathy and the Medical Profession (London, 1988).

Roy Porter, Quacks: Fakers and Charlatans in English Medicine (Stroud, 2000).

Naomi Rogers, An Alternative Path: The Making and Remaking of Hahnemann Medical College and Hospital of Philadelphia (New Brunswick NJ, 1998).

Mike Saks (ed.), Alternative Medicine in Britain (Oxford, 1992).

Londa Schiebinger, Plants and Empire: Colonial Bioprospecting in the Atlantic World (Cambridge, MA, 2004).

On the Medical Marketplace (again, just a tiny sample of a vast literature; do ask me if you want advice about readings on a specific topic or geography):

Timothy Burke Lifebuoy Men, Lux Women: Commodification, Consumption and Cleanliness in Modern Zimbabwe (London, 1996).

John Crellin, A Social History of Medicines in the Twentieth Century: To Be Taken Three Times a Day (New York, 2004).

Louise Hill Curth (ed.) From Physick to Pharmacology: Five Hundred Years of British Drug Retailing. (Aldershot, 2006).

Claire L. Jones, ‘(Re-)Reading Medical Trade Catalogs: The Uses of Professional Advertising in British Medical Practice, 1870–1914’, Bulletin of the History of Medicine, 86 (2012) pp. 361-393. e-journal

Elaine Leong, ‘Making Medicines in the Early Modern Household’, Bulletin of the History of Medicine, 82 (2008), pp. 145-168. e-journal

Lori Loeb, ‘Doctors and Patent Medicines in Modern Britain: Professionalism and Consumerism’, Albion: A Quarterly Journal Concerned with British Studies, 33 (2001), pp. 404-425. e-journal

Alisha Rankin, ‘Duchess, Heal Thyself: Elisabeth of Rochlitz and the Patient's Perspective in Early Modern Germany’, Bulletin of the History of Medicine, 82 (2008), pp. 109-144. e-journal

Nancy Tomes, ‘The Great American Medicine Show Revisited’, Bulletin of the History of Medicine, 79 (2005), pp. 627-663. e-journal

Takahiro Ueyama, Health in the Marketplace: Professionalism, Therapeutic Desires, and Medical Commodification in Late-Victorian London (Palo Alto CA, 2010)

Alun Withey ‘"Persons That Live Remote from London": Apothecaries and the Medical Marketplace in Seventeenth-and Eighteenth-Century Wales’, Bulletin of the History of Medicine, 85 (2011), pp. 222-247. e-journal