Chronic Illness and Disease History

Carsten Timmermann

in The Oxford Handbook of the History of Medicine

Published in print August 2011 | ISBN: 9780199546497
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in History

Chronic Illness and Disease History


This article discusses that with a new focus on patients and the quality of care, illness experiences have become an important topic in recent years in scholarly and biographical literature, but also in the wider world of newspaper, inviting comparisons with nineteenth-century accounts of consumptive lives and deaths. This article is about continuities of consumption and tuberculosis and the historical change that has obscured them. It discusses the belief in medical progress and its power, informed by laboratory research in bacteriology and physiology, replacing the feeling of impotence characterizing earlier medical encounters with incurability. It further suggests that the continuities with consumption go beyond descriptions, shaping the ways in which we deal with chronic illness today. It concludes with reasons for the use of comparative accounts to balance the dominance of the American case in the historiography and also histories of chronic illness in the developing world.

Keywords: care; chronic illness; deaths; consumption; American case

Article.  8683 words. 

Subjects: History ; Environmental History

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