Treating, preventing, feigning, concealing: sickness, agency, and the medical culture of the British naval seaman at the end of the long eighteenth century
Social History of Medicine
Oxford University Press (OUP)
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Caputo, S. Treating, preventing, feigning, concealing: sickness, agency, and the medical culture of the British naval seaman at the end of the long eighteenth century. Social History of Medicine https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.76045
Seen as a crucial historical step in the development of ‘modern’ institutional healthcare, eighteenth-century British naval medicine has traditionally been studied from the point of view of the state and of physicians and surgeons: naval sailors’ attitudes towards health, medicine, and their own bodies remain virtually unexplored. Using official and personal sources, this article sketches a ‘patient’s history’ of late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century British ratings. Aiming to counterbalance Foucauldian interpretations, it highlights some of the ways in which individuals, even when apparently most powerless, confined in ships far from home, and controlled by rigidly disciplined institutions, could take responsibility for their health, successfully or otherwise, within, against, or alongside the system. If the unprecedented administrative requirements of the French Wars strengthened and standardised top-down medical authority, they also brought opportunities for evasion and negotiation. This complicates established narratives of the relationship between modern medicine, the armed forces, and power.
Some revisions to this paper were conducted during a Scouloudi Fellowship at the Institute of Historical Research, London, an International Fellowship at the Deutsches Schifffahrtsmuseum, Bremerhaven, and a W. M. Keck Foundation Fellowship at the Huntington Library, San Marino.
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This record's DOI: https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.76045
This record's URL: https://www.repository.cam.ac.uk/handle/1810/328596
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