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February 17, 1993

Medicine in Society: Historical Essays

Author Affiliations

University of Wisconsin—Madison

JAMA. 1993;269(7):922. doi:10.1001/jama.1993.03500070102043

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In 1936 Richard Harrison Shryock, one of the first professionally trained historians to write about medicine, brought out The Development of Modern Medicine, a survey of the subject from about 1600 to the early 20th century. Despite the efflorescence of medical history during the past several decades, Shryock's pioneering text (revised in 1947) has remained in many respects the best introduction we have. For whatever reason— whether from lack of courage or vision— medical historians have shied away from the daunting task of surveying their field. Thus, the few attempts to provide comprehensive treatments have usually come from persons untrained in medical history, with predictable results. To fill the pressing need for an up-to-date synthesis of scholarship in the history of medicine, the British historian of medicine Andrew Wear invited 11 colleagues to collaborate with him in exploring "how medicine has affected society and how society has shaped medicine."