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Technologies of the Body: Polite Consumption and the Correction of Deformity in Eighteenth-Century England

David Turner Orcid Logo, Alun Withey

History, Volume: 99, Issue: 338, Pages: 775 - 796

Swansea University Author: David Turner Orcid Logo

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Abstract

Advertisements for a variety of products aimed at correcting or concealing physical ‘deformities’ - including rupture trusses, artificial limbs, and more elaborate machines to correct posture by straightening the spine - were prominent features of later eighteenth-century newspapers. This article ex...

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Published in: History
ISSN: 1468-229X
Published: 2014
Online Access: Check full text

URI: https://cronfa.swan.ac.uk/Record/cronfa20003
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Abstract: Advertisements for a variety of products aimed at correcting or concealing physical ‘deformities’ - including rupture trusses, artificial limbs, and more elaborate machines to correct posture by straightening the spine - were prominent features of later eighteenth-century newspapers. This article examines ways in which these products offered ways of fashioning the body in ways that not only restored functional capability, but also offered aesthetic improvement, producing a shape that both appeared ‘natural’ and was pleasing to others. Indeed, although many technologies of the body may have been intended first and foremost to restore the injured to economic productivity, manufacturers used a language of polite commerce to address users not as medicalised ‘patients’ but as sophisticated consumers. The development of these products took place against a cultural shift in which using artificial means to effect physical ‘improvement’ lost its previous association with pride and became prescribed as a duty for those wishing to succeed in polite society. This article shows how concepts of politeness and technologies of the body were interwoven in complex and surprising ways, and uses its material to question the status of these products as ‘medical’. In the process, it examines the ways in which suppliers addressed the aspirations and experiences of ‘deformed’ consumers in the eighteenth-century world of goods.
Keywords: Disability, deformity, technology, consumption, adverstising
College: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
Issue: 338
Start Page: 775
End Page: 796