ONE-DAY SYMPOSIUM – CALL FOR PAPERS: Whither the History of Nineteenth-Century Medicine?

Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine, University of Manchester

10.30 am – 5.00 pm, Friday 23 April 2010

During the 1980s and early 1990s, the nineteenth century lay at the very heart of medical historical scholarship. Indeed, many historians chose to focus on this period precisely because they believed that it was in the nineteenth century that modern medicine was born. Historians charted the ‘rise’ of the profession and of hospital and laboratory medicine. They traced the development of social medicine and public health and reflected on the increasing involvement of medical practitioners in everyday life. Meanwhile, historians of psychiatry, spurred on by the intellectual legacy of Michel Foucault, sought to understand the asylum as a social, cultural and political institution.

In the last decade or so, however, things have changed. Historians of medicine continue to work on the nineteenth century but the energy and sense of purpose which used to infuse so much of the earlier work seems to have subsided. By and large, scholars are content to work within their own particular field without addressing the ‘big’ questions which used to frame the analyses of an earlier generation. Meanwhile, many historians of medicine are now looking to the twentieth century, perhaps under the impression that the major themes of the nineteenth have already been thoroughly researched. This workshop seeks to address this state of affairs and to ask where the history of nineteenth-century medicine goes from here. Exciting and important research is certainly being carried on but what are the key questions that historians are asking? What are the major themes being examined and what areas remain unexplored? Is it, for example, possible to write ‘new’ accounts of psychiatry or public health? How are new histories of institutions, such as hospitals and asylums, to be written? Are there new histories of ‘big’ diseases to be uncovered or histories of neglected diseases and conditions, especially the chronic and non-fatal? Can we elaborate a more effective account of the nineteenth-century medical marketplace? And with all the work that has been done on representation, it is now time to write a history of practice?

Applications to present 20-minute papers are invited from anyone working in the field of nineteenth-century medicine. Please submit a title and one page abstract of proposed papers to [email protected] or [email protected] The deadline for submission of abstracts is 31 January 2010. There will be no conference fee. Morning coffee, a sandwich lunch and afternoon tea will be provided.