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Medical London: City of Diseases, City of…

Medical London: City of Diseases, City of Cures

by Richard Barnett

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A rather brilliant boxed set of books: one called "Sick City" which is a collection of essays on various aspects of the medical history of London, six pamphlets designed as tour guides for sights of medical-historical interest in and around London, and one larger full-city tour guide. I might add that the tour guides were of definite interest to me in spite of the fact that I've never been London and don't anticipate going there anytime soon. Any of the books/pamphlets could stand alone and be worth reading in and of itself; all of them together are quite a pleasure. ( )
  meggyweg | Jul 3, 2011 |
This is one of the most unique items in my library, and is now one of my favorites, as well. Medical London was published by the Wellcome Collection, which includes the famous Wellcome Library of Medicine, and it consists of three parts: "Sick City", a book of essays by Richard Barnett about the medical history of London over two millenia; "Anatomy of the City", a guide to the past and current sites of medical importance in the capital; and six elegantly designed pamphlets that serve as walking guides.

The six essays in "Sick City" provide fascinating and graphic accounts of the health and daily lives of Londoners, including the squalor that characterized the medieval and Victorian eras. We learn about the history and development of hospitals and mental institutions, how physicians were able to distinguish themselves from barber-surgeons and apothecaries to become respected professionals, the birth of public health with the linkage of fetid pump water to mid-19th century cholera epidemics in the capital, and other equally intriguing stories.

"Anatomy of the City" is closely linked with the walking guides, which focus on the Thames in medieval times; the plague in Daniel DeFoe's time; the life of an 18th century medical student; tropical diseases in the British Empire; STDs and other infectious diseases in shady Soho; and Bohemian medicine in Chelsea ("From homeopaths to psychopaths").

Barnett is a gifted and enthusiastic historian, and Medical London was clearly a labor of love. There is also a website, http://www.medicallondon.org, that includes further information about the collection, including videos from the six walks.

I would highly recommend Medical London to anyone interested in the history of the capital, the development of Western medicine and public health, or anyone looking for a captivating historical read. ( )
5 vote kidzdoc | Jul 16, 2009 |
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For 2,000 years, health and sickness have danced across, above and below London's streets, defining city life in the process. 'Medical London' charts the many roles that disease, treatments and cures have played in the city's sprawling story.

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