By Jonathan Reinarz and Kevin Siena (eds)
Illnesses affecting the surface have tended to impress a reaction of specific horror in society. With seen and occasionally repellant outward indicators of illness, they have been frequently looked as if it would be hugely contagious, in addition to synonymous with immorality. Such connotations could have stemmed from the tell-tale buboes of syphilis, however the social stigma of disfigurement is anything that also exists this day. This selection of essays makes use of case reports to chart the clinical historical past of dermis from the eighteenth to the 20 th century.
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Extra info for A Medical History of Skin: Scratching the Surface
What treatments were available for skin wounds, and what were the challenges and controversies surrounding them? Did early modern surgeons discuss pain control, or is this, as some historians have claimed, a modern concern? And what can all of this tell us about the history of skin? 13 Many of the surgical cases in mid- to late eighteenth-century London came to St Bartholomew’s Hospital, one of the English capital’s seven teaching hospitals. Patients there often came under the care of Percivall Pott (1714–1788), considered by his peers to be the best practical surgeon of his day.
Case three in the book involved an Oxfordshire man who presented himself at the hospital with three diseased lymphatic glands of the neck, each the size of a large plum. Sir Charles Blicke, a surgeon, removed the diseased gland and ‘the external maxillary artery was unavoidably divided’. The patient’s wound was sutured (with one suture) and closed with sticking plasters. 64 In fact suturing more often involved dead bodies than live ones. n to keep all the parts natural either by stitches of a bit of wood across under the sternum.
Earlier, radesyge was a disease characterized by changes in the fluids deep inside the body, which became visible only when putrid matter was discharged Abominable Ulcers, Open Pores and a New Tissue 39 through openings in the body’s surface. Now the disease was actually located in a new organ, the skin. In eighteenth-century radesyge texts, the skin was a sheet surrounding the body. Now it had become layered and thickened significantly. As a consequence this new disease also lost any association with fluids inside the body, the poor living conditions of the Norwegian peasantry, the hard work at sea and the eating habits of the common people.