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Disability and Prosthetics in Eighteenth- and Early Nineteenth-Century England / David Turner

The Routledge History of Disease, Pages: 301 - 319

Swansea University Author: David Turner

Abstract

Although the use of medical technology is often seen as a feature of modernity, the use of prostheses is nothing new. This chapter examines the ways in which prostheses were used to treat a variety of diseases and injuries and analyses the ways in which representations of prosthesis-wearing amputees...

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Published in: The Routledge History of Disease
ISBN: 9781315543420
Published: 2016
URI: https://cronfa.swan.ac.uk/Record/cronfa31727
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Abstract: Although the use of medical technology is often seen as a feature of modernity, the use of prostheses is nothing new. This chapter examines the ways in which prostheses were used to treat a variety of diseases and injuries and analyses the ways in which representations of prosthesis-wearing amputees shaped cultural responses to disability. In the first place, the chapter examines the causes and context of amputation. During the later eighteenth century there was a good deal of debate about the circumstances in which amputation was necessary. This debate highlighted the limits of medical authority and opened a space for challenging the actions of an increasingly powerful hospital-trained surgical elite. The chapter goes on to explore cultural meanings of amputation and prosthetic limbs. Although amputation was a dangerous procedure that made its survivors vulnerable both to infection and to social stigma, cultural images of amputees as dangerous or heroic also proliferated in this period. The chapter shows how representations of amputees were distinctly gendered, with female amputees lacking access to the honorific concepts of disability that were available to male military veterans. The chapter therefore urges historians of medicine to document not just the causes of surgical procedures such as amputation, but also the different cultural meanings that attached to them and how these produced hierarchies of status among patients.
Keywords: amputation; prostheses; disability; surgery; veterans
College: College of Arts and Humanities
Start Page: 301
End Page: 319