Writing History in the Age of Biomedicine


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Roger Cooter with Claudia Stein

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A noted medical historian explores the roles played by various intellectual frameworks and trends in the writing of history

A collection of ten essays paired with substantial prefaces, this book chronicles and contextualizes Roger Cooter’s contributions to the history of medicine. Through an analysis of his own work, Cooter critically examines the politics of conceptual and methodological shifts in historiography. In particular, he examines the “double bind” of postmodernism and biological or neurological modeling that, together, threaten academic history. To counteract this trend, suggests Cooter, historians must begin actively locating themselves in the problems they consider.

The essays and commentaries constitute a kind of contour map of history’s recent trends and trajectories—its points of passage to the present—and lead both to a critical account of the discipline’s historiography and to an examination of the role of intellectual frameworks and epistemic virtues in the writing of history.

Roger Cooter is a professor at the Centre for the History of Medicine at the University College London, where he specializes in the social history of ideas in science and medicine. Claudia Stein is an associate professor of history at the University of Warwick.

“....an intellectual tour de force wresting with Marc Bloch’s original quest to interrogate the purpose, meaning, and methodology of the historian’s craft....this will be a ‘must have’ book for introducing students to the study of history, especially at the graduate level.”—Dorothy Porter, Professor in the History of Health Sciences, University of California, San Francisco

"I can think of no really comparable recent book…Writing History in the Age of Biomedicine may turn out to be quite significant as a touchstone for the internal critique of historical scholarship in the first decade of the current century.”—William Summers, Yale University

"In the 21st century there is no arena of history more contested than that of biomedicine. Roger Cooter’s Writing History in the Age of Biomedicine (written with Claudia Stein) is the first serious attempt to look at the historiography of medicine as an index of the debates about meaning and its generation within these debates.  Whether examining questions of biopower in biomedical science, the new materialism and its claims at truth, or looking at the analysis of specific themes, such as the history of HIV/AIDS and its representation, Cooter and Stein provide detailed and critical looks at the shifting assumptions within the history of biomedicine.  This is more than an important book from two seminal thinkers:  it is a call to examine the shifts in the writing of bio-history and their underlying political assumptions."—Sander Gilman, author of Difference and Pathology

"In this gnarly and very personal meta-historiography, scholar-provocateur Roger Cooter dishes the political epistemological dirt.  Essay by essay, Cooter’s pilgrim progress goes through a dizzying spin cycle of social, literary, cultural, pictorial, neuroscientific, material turns."—Michael Sappol, author of A Traffic of Dead Bodies: Anatomy and Embodied Social Identity in 19th-Century America
“This is a career-spanning collection of essays by the historian of science from the 1970s to the present, with a jeremiad of an introduction that will provoke lively debate.”—Roger Luckhurst, Times Higher Education Supplement

“All in all this volume offers a valuable commentary on what Cooter and Stein call ‘the devaluation of the humanities in favour of the sciences’, a contemporary agenda that has many historians on edge.”—Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Science
ISBN: 9780300186635
Publication Date: July 16, 2013
368 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
7 b/w illus.