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About the Book

Beyond the Book

392 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, notes, bibl., index

Studies in Social Medicine

ISBN  978-1-4696-1515-8
Published: February 2014

Doctoring the South

Southern Physicians and Everyday Medicine in the Mid-Nineteenth Century

By Steven M. Stowe

Offering a new perspective on medical progress in the nineteenth century, Steven M. Stowe provides an in-depth study of the midcentury culture of everyday medicine in the South. Reading deeply in the personal letters, daybooks, diaries, bedside notes, and published writings of doctors, Stowe illuminates an entire world of sickness and remedy, suffering and hope, and the deep ties between medicine and regional culture.

In a distinct American region where climate, race and slavery, and assumptions about "southernness" profoundly shaped illness and healing in the lives of ordinary people, Stowe argues that southern doctors inhabited a world of skills, medicines, and ideas about sickness that allowed them to play moral, as well as practical, roles in their communities. Looking closely at medical education, bedside encounters, and medicine's larger social aims, he describes a "country orthodoxy" of local, social medical practice that highly valued the "art" of medicine. While not modern in the sense of laboratory science a century later, this country orthodoxy was in its own way modern, Stowe argues, providing a style of caregiving deeply rooted in individual experience, moral values, and a consciousness of place and time.

About the Author

Steven M. Stowe is professor of history at Indiana University, Bloomington. He is author of Intimacy and Power in the Old South: Ritual in the Lives of the Planters and editor of A Southern Practice: The Diary and Autobiography of Charles A. Hentz, M.D.


"Exceedingly well-researched and well-written. . . . It should become the prototype of a new genre, inspiring similar studies in other parts of America."
--South Carolina Historical Magazine

"Fills a particular niche for the student of both southern history and the history of medicine. . . . A fresh and creative view."
--Arkansas Historical Quarterly

"A straight-forward, well documented story of the trials and tribulations of nineteenth century physicians and their patients. . . . A bonanza of information. . . . This fascinating, evocative, and thoughtful book is a significant addition to both Southern and medical history."

"As a richly documented chronicle of medicine in the mid-nineteenth century, this book is successful and claims a high place in both social history and the history of medicine in America."
--Journal of Southern History

"This prodigious research is augmented by a well-written narrative that takes readers to southern medical-school classrooms, to doctors' offices, and to the bedsides of the neighbors that they sought to mend and heal. . . . [This] masterful achievement should become a model for . . . medical history."
--Journal of Interdisciplinary History

"A fascinating study--thoroughly researched, well written, and showing a depth of thought and sensitivity. The book is a worthwhile read and will be of interest to a broad spectrum of the historical field, including medical and cultural historians, nineteenth-century historians, and the South generally."

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