The books on this page pertain to Western biomedicine and world histories of medicine that may or may not relate to allopathic care. The disciplines that provide the foundation for the following texts include but are not limited to Medicine, Anthropology, History, Sociology, and Psychology.
Duffin, Jacalyn. History of Medicine: A Scandalously Short Introduction. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 1999. Print.
This is a “survey of” book, with brief chapters that succinctly describe the development of Western medical traditions, ideologies, and practices. Duffin is an MD, a PhD, and a practicing physician and professor. It is written by a Canadian author for a Canadian audience and there is no chapter on indigenous practice or alternative medicine of any kind. This is a well-written, accessible, enjoyable compilation despite its deficiencies and the bibliographies at the end of each chapter are interesting.
Gerald, Michael C. The Drug Book: From Arsenic to Xanax, 250 Milestones in the History of Drugs. Sterling Milestones. New York: Sterling, 2013. Print.
This is both a coffee table book and a great source of information for anyone, from layperson to medical student. Starting with the category “herbs” for the earliest forms of medical drugs and concluding with a projection into 2020 and the use of gene therapy, with each entry accompanied by a photograph, it gives a wonderful overview of ways in which humans use and have used medicinal substances. Gerald is a retired professor of Pharmacology and this seems like a true labor of love for him; consequently, the volume is both substantive and beautiful.
Kleinman, Arthur. The Illness Narratives: Suffering, Healing, and the Human Condition. New York: Basic Books, 1988. Print.
On the second page of the introduction, Kleinman reminds the reader that “there is a difference between the patient’s experience of illness and the doctor’s attention to disease” (xii) and he declares, here, that his intention for this book is to probe deeply into these interstices. The book is a collection of anecdotes and analysis of the lived experience of disease and suffering. What affect do these states of being have on the sufferer’s identity? What changes are wrought upon his or her family? How is this suffering framed, quantified, and expressed? All of these questions and more form the basis of this fascinating book. Of special interest is the chapter “Neurasthenia: Weakness and Exhaustion in the United States and China.”
Good, Byron J. Medicine, Rationality, and Experience: An Anthropological Perspective. Lewis Henry Morgan Lectures. Cambridge UK: Cambridge UP, 1994.
This collection of essays, originally part of a lecture series at the University of Rochester, concentrates the currents of thought associated with one of the more interesting and thought-provoking branches of medical anthropology scholarship. The primary argument of this collection is the fruit of over twenty years of fieldwork and active scholarly engagement with some of the most brilliant medical anthropologists of this period. Good, herein, dissects received wisdom that deems biomedicine as “fact” as opposed to traditional medicine, which is viewed by Western medicine as “belief.” His impeccably researched analysis and erudite discussion of this erroneous ideology is fascinating and timely even twenty years after the book’s publication date.
Lock, Margaret, and Vinh-Kim Nguyen. An Anthropology of Biomedicine. Chichester, West Sussex (UK): Wiley-Blackwell, 2010. Print.
This anthology frames biomedicine within Anthropology’s disciplinary lens and critically analyzes biomedical technologies in reference to cultural, historical, and environmental contexts. Some of the more interesting themes in this book relate to ethics, the self, and genetic testing. Both authors are medical anthropologists, and their assessment of the effect of biomedicine on human bodies and lived culture is of great value to professionals and non-professionals alike.
Millon, Theodore. Masters of the Mind: Exploring the Story of Mental Illness from Ancient Time to the New Millennium. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2004. Print.
This is a fascinating, extensive, and scholarly yet accessible survey of the stories of mental illness and how they appeared (and seem poised to appear in the future) in their respective cultural and historical contexts. Each section provides an overview of the psychological concept or historical moment in question. Next, the author provides in-depth analysis of pertinent aspects of the mental illness, treatment, or developments in the profession that accompany the overview. Finally, Millon provides his own personal reflections on and professional assessment of the section’s theme. The narrative is dense and, at times, demanding, but anyone—from scholars to interested casual readers—will find that it is well worth the effort it takes to read this book.