From the 1600s through the 1990s, Americans turned to a variety of healers, practices, and institutions in their efforts to prevent and survive epidemics of smallpox, yellow fever, cholera, influenza, polio, and AIDS. Health care workers in all periods attended births and deaths and cared for people who had injuries, disabilities, and chronic diseases.
Drawing on primary sources, classic scholarship, and a vast body of recent literature in the history of medicine and public health, Burnham finds that traditional healing, care, and medicine dominated the United States until the late nineteenth century, when antiseptic/aseptic surgery and germ theory initiated an intellectual, social, and technical transformation. He divides the age of modern medicine into several eras: physiological medicine (1910s–1930s), antibiotics (1930s–1950s), technology (1950s–1960s), environmental medicine (1970s–1980s), and, beginning around 1990, genetic medicine. The cumulating developments in each era led to today’s radically altered doctor-patient relationship and the insistent questions that swirl around the financial cost of health care.
Burnham’s sweeping narrative makes sense of medical practice, medical research, and human frailties and foibles, opening the door to a new understanding of our current concerns.-- Gerald N. Grob, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, author of Aging Bones: A Short History of Osteoporosis
John C. Burnham is a research professor of history at the Ohio State University, where he is also an associated scholar in the Medical Heritage Center. His most recent books include What Is Medical History? and Accident Prone: A History of Technology, Psychology, and Misfits of the Machine Age.
In Bad Habits, Burnham traces the growth of a veritable minor vice-industrial complex. As it grew, activities that might have been harmless, natural, and sociable fun resulted in fundamental social change. When Burnham set out to explore the influence of these bad habits on American society, he sought to discover why so many good people engaged in activities that many, including they themselves, considered bad. What he found, however, was a coalition of economic and social interests in which the single-minded quest for profit allied with the values of the Victorian saloon underworld and bohemian rebelliousness. This combination radically inverted common American standards of personal conduct.
Bad Habits, then, describes, in words and pictures, how more and more Americans learned to value hedonism and self-gratification—to smoke and swear during World War I, to admire cabaret night life, and to reject schoolmarmish standards in the age of Prohibition. Tracing the evolution of each of the bad habits, Burnham tells how liquor control boards encouraged the consumption of alcohol; how alcoholic beverage producers got their workers deferred from the draft during World War II; how convenience stores and accounting firms pursued profits by pushing legalized gambling; how swinging Playboy bankrolled a drug advocacy group; how advertising and television made the Marlboro Man a national hero; how drug paraphernalia was promoted by national advertisers; how a practical joker/drug addict caused a shortage of kitty litter on Long Island; and how the evolution of an entire sex therapy industry helped turn sexual experience into a new kind of commodity. Altogether, a lot of people made a lot of money. But what, the author asks, did these changes cost American society?
This illustrated tour de force by one of the most distinctive and important voices in social history reveals John C. Burnham at his provocative and controversial best.
"Warning: She spares no detail!" —Erik Larson, bestselling author of Dead Wake
In The Butchering Art, the historian Lindsey Fitzharris reveals the shocking world of nineteenth-century surgery and shows how it was transformed by advances made in germ theory and antiseptics between 1860 and 1875. She conjures up early operating theaters—no place for the squeamish—and surgeons, who, working before anesthesia, were lauded for their speed and brute strength. These pioneers knew that the aftermath of surgery was often more dangerous than patients’ afflictions, and they were baffled by the persistent infections that kept mortality rates stubbornly high. At a time when surgery couldn’t have been more hazardous, an unlikely figure stepped forward: a young, melancholy Quaker surgeon named Joseph Lister, who would solve the riddle and change the course of history.
Fitzharris dramatically reconstructs Lister’s career path to his audacious claim that germs were the source of all infection and could be countered by a sterilizing agent applied to wounds. She introduces us to Lister’s contemporaries—some of them brilliant, some outright criminal—and leads us through the grimy schools and squalid hospitals where they learned their art, the dead houses where they studied, and the cemeteries they ransacked for cadavers.
Eerie and illuminating, The Butchering Art celebrates the triumph of a visionary surgeon whose quest to unite science and medicine delivered us into the modern world.