Harriet S.MeyerMD, Contributing EditorDavid H.MorseMS, Journal Review EditorRobertHoganMD, adviser for new media
by Roy Porter, 328 pp, with illus, $35, ISBN 0-8014-3953-1, Ithaca, NY, Cornell University Press, 2001.
"What is the use of a book," thought Alice, "without pictures or conversation?" Roy Porter aptly places this quotation from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland before the preface to Bodies Politic, for the book is largely about pictures and conversation. But it is not a coffee table book. Rather, it is a monograph that analyzes representations of the body, disease, and medicine through verbal and visual media.
Despite the book's titular chronology, it focuses primarily on the "long eighteenth century" or Georgian period (c 1680-1830s), in which Porter is fully at home. As a result of the print revolution of the post-Restoration era, the 18th century was deluged with verbal and visual images of all kinds. Porter handles this rich material masterfully. Some of what he says will not be new to readers of other works on Georgian medical history. But even those familiar with this literature can profit from the delightful analysis of cartoons, portraits, prints, novels, plays, and poems.
HistoryBodies Politic: Disease, Death and Doctors in Britain, 1650-1900. JAMA. 2002;287(15):2003-2004. doi:10.1001/jama.287.15.2003