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Medical historians have traditionally concentrated their attention on what physicians said instead of what they did, placing a premium on medical theory at the expense of medical practice. Even historians of medical institutions, such as hospitals and societies, have been content to accept at face value official statements of the goals and achievements of these establishments. Recently, however, historians have been attempting to look more broadly and to probe more deeply: to uncover for instance, the nuances of ordinary medical practice of the past, to take more seriously the variety of individuals offering medical care or advice, and to examine physician-patient' encounters from the patient's perspective.
Guenter Risse's book offers a splendid example of how rewarding this newer perspective can be, for it presents an indepth analysis of life and death in one of the most famous medical institutions of its time, the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, Scotland. Even the
Bynum WF. Hospital Life in Enlightenment Scotland: Care and Teaching at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh. JAMA. 1987;258(18):2594-2595. doi:10.1001/jama.1987.03400180128047