Doctoring the South: Southern Physicians and Everyday Medicine in the Mid-Nineteenth Century

Doctoring the South: Southern Physicians and Everyday Medicine in the Mid-Nineteenth Century

Doctoring the South: Southern Physicians and Everyday Medicine in the Mid-Nineteenth Century

Doctoring the South: Southern Physicians and Everyday Medicine in the Mid-Nineteenth Century

Synopsis

Offering a new perspective on medical progress in the nineteenth century, Steven M. Stowe provides an in-depth study of the midcentury culture of everyday medicine in the South. Reading deeply in the personal letters, daybooks, diaries, bedside notes, and published writings of doctors, Stowe illuminates an entire world of sickness and remedy, suffering and hope, and the deep ties between medicine and regional culture.

In a distinct American region where climate, race and slavery, and assumptions about "southernness" profoundly shaped illness and healing in the lives of ordinary people, Stowe argues that southern doctors inhabited a world of skills, medicines, and ideas about sickness that allowed them to play moral, as well as practical, roles in their communities. Looking closely at medical education, bedside encounters, and medicine's larger social aims, he describes a "country orthodoxy" of local, social medical practice that highly valued the "art" of medicine. While not modern in the sense of laboratory science a century later, this country orthodoxy was in its own way modern, Stowe argues, providing a style of caregiving deeply rooted in individual experience, moral values, and a consciousness of place and time.

Excerpt

This is a study of physicians and medical practice in the southern United States during the mid-nineteenth century. It seeks to describe and interpret the work of ordinary practitioners who struggled to understand disease and care for the sick. For those readers who know little about medical care in this era, I hope to show why it was an important aspect of social and cultural life. For those acquainted with medical history, I hope to defamiliarize, and thus illuminate, features of ordinary practice in this time and place, which will deepen our understanding of what everyday doctoring signified in the medical past.

In one sense, sickness and health are impersonal processes. When an individual becomes sick, it may be seen as the result of the implacable objectivity of living in a complex biological world. Few people think of sickness in this way alone, however, because sickness and health are intensely subjective experiences, too, arising from people’s understanding of their own bodies and personalities. Becoming sick and getting well thus are expressive of an inclusive sense of living in a world of danger, reprieve, and the possibility for solace. All of these are the subject of this book. They are explored by looking at the labors and perceptions of ordinary M.D.s in the South during the years from 1830 to 1880, a span of time just before their style of medicine began to make the shift toward what became accepted as “modern” healing, with its emphasis on biomedical science, institutions, and specialism.

This transition was, of course, a fundamental turning point in the understanding of disease and the effective provision of care everywhere in the United . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.