Monday, September 16, 2013

New and Noteworthy--Marrow of Tragedy: The Civil War As a Medical Laboratory

Marrow of Tragedy: The Health Crisis of the American Civil War, Margaret Humphreys, Johns Hopkins University Press; 400 pages; $34.95

From The Publisher:  The Civil War was the greatest health disaster the United States has ever experienced, killing more than a million Americans and leaving many others invalided or grieving. Poorly prepared to care for wounded and sick soldiers as the war began, Union and Confederate governments scrambled to provide doctoring and nursing, supplies, and shelter for those felled by warfare or disease.

During the war soldiers suffered from measles, dysentery, and pneumonia and needed both preventive and curative food and medicine. Family members—especially women—and governments mounted organized support efforts, while army doctors learned to standardize medical thought and practice. Resources in the north helped return soldiers to battle, while Confederate soldiers suffered hunger and other privations and healed more slowly, when they healed at all.

In telling the stories of soldiers, families, physicians, nurses, and administrators, historian Margaret Humphreys concludes that medical science was not as limited at the beginning of the war as has been portrayed. Medicine and public health clearly advanced during the war—and continued to do so after military hostilities ceased.

The Author: Margaret Humphreys is the Josiah Charles Trent Professor in the History of Medicine, a professor of history, and a professor of medicine at Duke University. She is the author of Intensely Human: The Health of the Black Soldier in the American Civil War and Malaria: Poverty, Race, and Public Health in the United States, also published by Johns Hopkins
Blurbs: "A consistently engaging overview of Civil War medicine in its every aspect. Based on careful research and mastery of an abundant literature, Marrow of Tragedy provides a powerful depiction of a subject revealing of a dynamic and increasingly complex American society." Charles Rosenberg, Harvard University

"If there is one study that shows us the significance of sickness in the Civil War, and the attempts to define and counter it, this is it. With admirable scholarship and an eye for key turning points, Humphreys has written a compelling history of the war’s medical costs and achievements." Steven M. Stowe, Indiana University)

"Full of fresh perspectives, thoughtful insights, and judicious re-assessments, this sweeping synthesis by an outstanding historian will fundamentally change the way we think about Civil War medical history. For scholars and general readers alike, Marrow of Tragedy is a must-read book." James C. Mohr, University of Oregon

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