It is widely recognised, both within and outside the medical professions, that the huge advances in bio-medical science experienced during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries have risked reducing medicine to an impersonal and mechanistic discipline, in which treatment is reduced to set of pharmaceutical and surgical interventions which pay not attention to the patient’s personality and cultural context. There has been a concerted attempt in recent medical practice to counteract that reductive tendency, and to recognise the importance of treating the whole person, including their mind and their emotions, and to pay attention to the physical and cultural environment as an intrinsic part of medical treatment. These ideas about ‘care’ more broadly conceived all have historical precedents, and it is the aim of the proposed research project to uncover some of them and to think about their relevance both to contemporary practice and to our understanding of the past. The project aims to reconstitute the affective lives of both patients and care-givers through an analysis of the material cultures, physical spaces, and culture representations that were involved in creating their experiences. It is thus aims to use a comparative cultural history of care as a way to enrich our historical understandings of the spaces, objects, and emotions involved in producing health and disease in the modern world.
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