Tag Archives: resources

Shelf Selection: Medicine and Literature

Welcome to the first in a series of blog posts showing off the collections of the Wellcome Unit Library, Oxford!
Being interdisciplinary in nature, the history of medicine offers fascinating opportunities to view disease and medical treatment through time in various social and cultural contexts. This means that although we are a small and specialised library, our books come under a wide range of subject classifications, from BL (religion) to U (military science), via JC (political theory).
In this week’s shelf selection we have a variety of books which link medicine with literary works:

Melancholy, Medicine and Religion in Early Modern England– Mary Ann Lund (PR2224 LUN 2010)

Robert Burton’s The Anatomy of Melancholy (1621) is an essential text for understanding early modern attitudes to illness and cure. Melancholy was understood as an ailment of body and soul, and Burton suggested that the experience of reading about the condition in his book could have curative powers. Mary Ann Lund argues that Burton’s approach has a lot to tell us about the history of reading and the relationships between reader, author and text. Looking at the diverse influences behind Burton’s conviction, including early modern medical writings, she presents Anatomy as a literary, medical and religious text which defies easy categorisation.

Legacies of Plague in Literature, Theory and Film
Jennifer Cooke
(PN56.P5 COO 2009)

This study begins with an overview of plague-writing classics by Daniel Defoe and Albert Camus, and goes on to trace the survival of plague as a metaphor and cultural phenomenon beyond the last major European epidemics and into the twentieth century. Cooke finds echoes of the disease across theatre, politics and media, including anti-Semitic rhetoric, Freudian psychoanalysis and George A. Romero’s zombie films. For a collection of earlier historical and literary accounts of plague, see also Rebecca Totaro (ed.) The Plague in Print: Essential Elizabethan Sources 1558-1603 (PR1125.P53 PLA 2010)

Disease and Death in Eighteenth-Century Literature and Culture– eds. Allan Ingram and Leigh Wetherall Dickson (PR448.D57 DIS 2016)

Originating in a collaborative research project by members of the Universities of Northumbria and Newcastle, this edited volume reads literary works by writers such as Maria Edgeworth and Jonathan Swift alongside medical books, letters and diaries, to consider how people ‘fashioned’, or ascribed meaning to, diseases and causes of death in this period. A distinction can be observed in 18th century society between ‘fashionable’ and ‘unfashionable’ diseases (consumption and ‘ennui’ were generally listed in the former category, plague and smallpox in the latter), and literary works played a role in creating, reinforcing and subverting these categories.

Fictions of Affliction: Physical Disability in
Victorian Culture
– Martha Stoddard Holmes

(PR468.P35.S76 STO 2004)

Part of the ‘Corporealities: Discourses of Disability’ series, this book links the prevalence of characters with disabilities in Victorian fiction to a wider cultural trend of melodramatic representation of disability, also seen among doctors and educators, and asks what this can tell us about 19th century society and culture. Holmes’s study looks at writers including Charles Dickens (who used the character of Tiny Tim as a sentimentalized shortcut for his message of charity and social justice), Wilkie Collins, Dinah Craik and Charlotte Younge, alongside other sources from the same period including autobiographical accounts from people with disabilities.

Hardy the Physician: Medical Aspects of the Wessex Tradition– Tony Fincham (PR4754 FIN 2008)

Using evidence of Thomas Hardy’s own experience and understanding of physical and mental illness, Tony Fincham reviews the place of illness and medicine in Hardy’s fiction, making particular reference to the GP protagonist of The Woodlanders, Dr Edred Fitzpiers. Fincham highlights Hardy’s ‘consistent and continuous forefronting of psychological factors in the aetiology of illness’ (p.117), concluding that Hardy favoured a holistic, emotionally aware approach to medical matters.


If you would like to consult any of the books held in the Wellcome Unit Library, contact us to arrange your visit!

News: RCS digitisation project for the UK Medical Heritage Library

Students and researchers of history of medicine may be interested to learn about a project to digitise almost 22,000 tracts and pamphlets from the library at the Royal College of Surgeons. These will become part of the UK Medical Heritage Library, a project bringing together books and pamphlets from 10 research libraries in the UK to form a digital collection of nineteenth and early twentieth century material on history of medicine and related disciplines. The digital library promotes free and open access to resources.

Digitisation work will be undertaken by a team at the Wellcome Library in London, and will make the RCS’s collection accessible globally. The pamphlets have a wide range of subject matters, and collectively provide valuable insight into developments in surgery, anatomy and disease over the duration of the century.

To read more about the project, visit the RCS website: http://www.rcseng.ac.uk/library/blog/tracts-and-pamplets-digitising-for-the-uk-medical-heritage-library

WISER sessions on finding resources and depositing your thesis

There are lots of helpful WISER training sessions coming up in the coming weeks.  You can subscribe to a feed of upcoming sessions to keep track too.

WISER: Finding Stuff – Books etc on SOLO [Monday 23 January 9.15 – 10.00] – Effective search techniques for finding books and other library materials using SOLO, ordering from the book stacks and using the SOLO eshelf and saved searches > Book Now

WISER: Finding Stuff – Journal Articles Monday [23 January 10.00 – 11.30] – How to find articles and papers to support your research using a wide range of bibliographic databases and how to develop your search strategy.  This workshop will include plenty of time for participants to try out their own searches using databases for their subject as well as a demonstration. >Book Now

WISER: Finding Stuff – Theses and Dissertations [Monday 23 January 11.30 – 12.15] – How to find dissertations and theses from Oxford, other UK institutions and overseas.   >Book Now

WISER: Your thesis, copyright and ORA [Friday 27 January 9.15 – 10.15] –  Oxford DPhil students are required to deposit a copy of their thesis in ORA (Oxford University Research Archive).  This session will focus on copyright and other issues that DPhil students need to take into account when preparing and writing their thesis so that they do not encounter problems when they deposit.      DPhils are encouraged to attend this session early so that they can make sensible decisions regarding rights from the start of their research. >Find out more    > Book now.

WISER: Getting information to come to you [Friday 27 January 10.30 – 12.00] – How to keep abreast of new publications and papers in your research area and research news and opportunities on the web using RSS feeds and email alerts. The session will include a demonstration and also time to set up your an RSS reader or email notifications.>Book Now

Keeping up to date with the WISER programme – Why not follow  us on Twitter at http://twitter.com/oxwiser  or visit the BodWiser blog at http://bodwiser.wordpress.com You can also check the timetable on the WISER web site at http:// libguides.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/workshops or join our mailling list by sending an empty email to wiser-subscribe@maillist.ox.ac.uk

Not a member of Oxford University? – If you are not a current member of Oxford University but would like to attend a WISER workshop please contact usered@bodleian.ox.ac.uk. Please quote your Bodleian readers card barcode number.

If you have any questions please contact usered@bodleian.ox.ac.uk

Top 5 websites for the history of medicine – January 2012

Over the past few weeks, staff at the Library have come across a number of interesting online resources – podcasts, articles, websites and blogs that we have added to our Delicious list of links.  All of them are free to access.  If you have any favourite resources then please leave a comment.  Here are our current top 5:

1)      Chirurgeon’s apprentice

This website describes itself as ‘dedicated to a study of early modern chirurgeons, and all the blood and gore that comes with it.’  The site was created by Lindsey Fitzharris, who is currently a Wellcome Trust Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Queen Mary, University of London.  It contains a series of casebooks covering a variety of topics, such as vivisection, blood letting and the reaction of medical students to dissection.

2)      Waterloo 200

This site has been set up to commemorate the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, in the run up to its 200th anniversary.   Along, with Q&A and education sections, an area of the site is dedicated to articles about the battle.  An article of particular interest is ‘Surgeon George James Guthrie, Wellington’s combat surgeon’, written by MKH Crumplin (Hon. Curator at the Royal College of Surgeons of England and archivist to the Association of Surgeons of Great Britain and Ireland).  Crumplin traces the early life and education of Guthrie as a military doctor, his time as a surgeon in military campaigns and his career as a civilian doctor after 1815.  If this article whets your appetite, Crumplin’s book Guthrie’s War: a surgeon of the Peninsula and Waterloo (2010) can be requested from the Bodleian’s book stacks to consult in the Bodleian Libraries Reading Rooms.  His 2005 book A surgical artist at war is also available to consult the Wellcome Unit Library (shelfmark R489.B38 CRU 2005) .

3)      Archives Hub – The Heritage of our Medical Profession

The Archives Hub acts as a gateway that gathers together information about archives held in UK institutions.  The Hub is currently adding information about the archives held by British Royal Medical Colleges.  So far, it has added descriptions for the archives of Royal College of Surgeons of England, Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and more are to follow.  Although many of these collections of archives have not been digitised, the Hub descriptions give details about the scope and content of the physical collections held by the institutions.   For instance, the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow holds the student notes taken in Dr Robert Watt’s lectures on fevers in 1812.  The Hub also has sections dedicated to Tuberculosis and Charles Darwin.

4)      National Archives Podcast – Anxiety, dread and disease: British ports 1834-1870

Sarah Hutton, a modern domestic records specialist at The National Archives, delves into the archives to investigate the spread of disease in British port towns in the 19th century.  Using examples of cholera outbreaks in the north of England, she explores how reactions to cholera differed when the disease was deemed to have arrived on incoming ships.  This lecture demonstrates the value of the vast collections available at the National Archives.

5)       Pybus Podcasts

This second set of podcasts had been created by the Northern Centre for the History of Medicine, which is a partnership between Durham Univerity and Newscastle University, supported by the Wellcome Trust.  Six podcasts of public seminars have been recorded and are available to listen online or download.  Topics include ‘The Drug Trade in Colonial India by Dr Nandini Bhattacharya (University of Leicester) and ‘Madness and Passions in Early Modern Spain by Dr Elena Carrera (Queen Mary, University of London).