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Tuberculosis In The Nineteenth Century Essay

869 words - 4 pages

In David Barnes book, The Making of a Social Disease: Tuberculosis in Nineteenth-Century France, Barnes challenges the reader by questioning the way we see medicine. In the introduction of the book, Barnes first sentence creates a subtitle scare in the reader with the first few lines of “Tuberculosis is back. In most developed nations, a steady decline throughout most of the twentieth century reversed itself beginning in the mid­1980s, and cases of the disease have increased ever since” (Barnes 1). Barnes continues on and tells the reader of the disease, how it is contagious, how it was treated worldwide to begin with. This book is more a history of the cause and action to prevent tuberculosis rather than a history of the treatment of tuberculosis. Barnes wanted to figure out the answer of the question, “how does a society make sense of a widespread and deadly disease?”(Barnes 23). The author’s presentation is very clear and clean, as seen in the introduction, there is a general outline of each chapter telling what the chapter contains and where it is going. At this point of the book as a reader I am very intrigued to see how he answers his own thesis question, and I have been able to follow and understand him well.
As Barnes continues in the first couple chapters of his book, he tells the reader what events are going on in the beginning of the nineteenth century, this is when ''essentialist" explanations of tuberculosis predominated (27). He continues on and examines the early societal and epidemiological analyses of hygienists, concentrating especially on Villemin, the leading figure of the "party of hygiene" during the July Monarchy. Barnes also talks about the societies controversy of Villemin's 1865 experiments. These experiments were trying to show the transmissibility of tuberculosis. During this they wanted to try to take seriously the arguments of the people who believed that quarantines were useless. This idea was lost when tuberculosis was found to be contagious by mouth. As the book continues Barnes touches on theories that suggest, during pre­germ theory years, certain ideals finding tuberculosis as a way of redemptive suffering, this ideal survived for a while (49). The idea of redemptive suffering is something I have always had issues with. It makes sense to have those ideas in the 19th century but as a person in the 21st century and with the medicine, research and the germ theory we have today there is no chance that those ideas would survive in this century.
The heart of the book starts in detail in the middle of the book. Barnes continues his thesis by showing the expansion of...

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