Mistaking histories

Back in 2011, I entered the world of blogging via the now-defunct collective blog, wondersandmarvels.com. I enjoyed sharing ideas both there and in other contexts, ideas about the history of the body and of medicine; highlights of the last few years include teaching school students on a ‘Roman Medicine’ themed day, lecturing surrounded by body parts in jars at the Bart’s Pathology Museum, and talking to heart surgeons while ostensibly lecturing on Leonardo da Vinci at the Royal Galleries at Holyroodhouse. I also like writing for publication: my most recent book is The One-Sex Body on Trial: The Classical and Early Modern Evidence (Ashgate, 2013) and, as part of my commitment to distance learning, I’ve also written a MOOC on ‘Health and Wellness in the Ancient World’.

I’m taking the opportunity to repost some of my work here, broadly around the theme of history and how we do it (well). From time to time I’ll summarise something I’ve published which relates to a current topic, and now and then I get sufficiently worked up to write something new! Some of the posts are tagged as ‘Bad History’; picking up from Ben Goldacre’s term Bad Science, these explore the origins of some of the claims about the history of medicine and the body made online. For most of the history on which I work, ‘taking a history’ is an accepted phrase for the process by which the doctor creates meaning from the patient’s story. As historians, we do this too, although we may make a complete mess out of it because we want to tell a story which works for us, rather than trying to understand what it all meant way back when. Hence, ‘mistaking histories’…

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