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The Diseases of Modern Life: Nineteenth-Century Perspectives

Final Report Summary - DISEASES (The Diseases of Modern Life: Nineteenth-Century Perspectives)

‘Diseases of Modern Life: Nineteenth-Century Perspectives’ aimed to place some of our current concerns about the problems of ‘modernity’ into historical perspective. Anxieties around issues such as overwork, information overload, stress and nervous disorders, and the health impacts of environmental pollution, all have precedents in the age of the telegraph and the industrial revolution. The research drew upon a wide range of archival and printed sources, from medical writings, to fiction, and self-help manuals, tracking the flow of ideas across different media and genres. Although the primary focus is on Britain, the team have also tracked how these ideas emerged in imperial contexts, and in different European countries. The co-authored volume, Anxious Times: Medicine and Modernity in Nineteenth-Century Britain (Bonea, Dickson, Shuttleworth, Wallis, 2019), gives an overview of the research, with microstudies in areas from occupational health to fantasies of future evolution. The edited collection, Progress and Pathology: Medicine and Culture in the Nineteenth Century (eds Dickson, Taylor-Brown, Shuttleworth, 2020), sets concerns in a global perspective. The team worked collaboratively with psychiatrists and mental health workers on a series of conferences, and with sleep scientists on the problems of stress and sleep, producing a special issue of the Royal Society journal, Interface Focus. In addition to the numerous academic books and articles produced, the team also created an open access database of primary sources; resources for English and History teachers in schools; a light and sound projection, and numerous podcasts and videos. All these can be found on the project website: https://diseasesofmodernlife.web.ox.ac.uk/.