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Of Medicine and Men

Biographies and Ideas in European Social Medicine between the World Wars

Iris Borowy and Anne Hardy

Social medicine was one of the key health paradigms of the early twentieth century. It perceived public health as a function of social conditions and aimed at improving it through comprehensive, horizontal strategies. Yet, it was no homogeneous or static phenomenon. Depending on time, place and circumstances, it took different, sometimes ideologically contradictory forms. This volume portrays leading medical experts from seven European countries. Their juxtaposition reveals a network of international interaction and shows how different people coped with the crises of the time in different ways, sometimes as part of the scientific mainstream, sometimes as opposition under attack, sometimes in exile. Their biographies reflect an ambivalent interplay of biomedicine, politics and social theory.


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A Posthumous Audit. Medical Biography and the Social History of Medicine (Patrick Zylberman)


1 97 A Posthumous Audit Medical Biography and the Social History of Medicine Patrick Zylberman He was supposed, perhaps correctly, to be the greatest admiral since Nelson. But it did not add up to much. Nel­ son 's domination of the seas lasted a hundred years; Fisher' s about ten. Now he has only the wistful charm of yesterday's music-hall comedian. A.J.P. Taylor, Admiral Fisher: A Great Man? The time is not very long past when general history tended to look down on biography, which scholars and academics were pleased to leave to journalists and ( a mistake) to British historians. 1 F or all that, 'history's lame cousin' (in Marc Ferro's phrase) continues to do quite wei l . For example, out of all the his­ tory and geography books published in France from 2002 to 2005, the percent­ age of biographies ( of all kinds) rose from 39 to 48 per cent.2 The social history of medicine should by rights have sounded the death knell of medical biography. The Society for the Social History of Medicine, founded in May 1 970, certainly had the intention of dropping the 'great man' cult in favour of studies better at­ tuned to formulating the main lines of health policy. 3 Yet this new emphasis on social and political considerations did not produce any fall-off in the number of medical biographies printed in the UK. In France, where biographical works had for a long time fared worse than anywhere eise, the publication of medical biog...

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