The Sick Child in Early Modern England, 1580-1720

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9780198713470: The Sick Child in Early Modern England, 1580-1720
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The Sick Child in Early Modern England is a powerful exploration of the treatment, perception, and experience of illness in childhood from the late sixteenth to the early eighteenth century. At this time, the sickness or death of a child was a common occurrence - over a quarter of young people died before the age of fifteen - and yet this subject has received little scholarly attention.

Hannah Newton takes three perspectives: first, she investigates medical understandings and treatments of children. She argues that a concept of 'children's physic' existed amongst doctors and laypeople: the young were thought to be physiologically distinct, and in need of special medicines. Secondly, she examines the family's experience, demonstrating that parents devoted considerable time and effort to the care of their sick offspring, and experienced feelings of devastating grief upon their illnesses and deaths. Thirdly, she takes the strikingly original viewpoint of sick children themselves, offering rare and intimate insights into the emotional, spiritual, physical, and social dimensions of sickness, pain, and death.

Newton asserts that children's experiences were characterised by profound ambivalence: while young patients were often tormented by feelings of guilt, fears of hell, and physical pain, sickness could also be emotionally and spiritually uplifting, a source of much attention and love from parents. Drawing on a wide array of printed and archival materials, The Sick Child is of vital interest to scholars working in the interconnected fields of the history of medicine, childhood, parenthood, bodies, emotion, pain, death, religion, and gender.

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Review:

This is fine book from a young scholar of the history of medicine. ... There are several novalties in the book's topic and structure which make it praiseworthy. ... This is a thoughtful and reflective book which will be of interest to medical historians and historians of childhood in equal measure. ... this book has much to recommend it to those interested in medicine and social history. (Alysa Levene, Local Population Studies)

What makes Newton's achievement impressive is the skill and determination with which she has investigated a huge range of medical literature to establish her case that children were seen, distinctively, as 'soft and weak, abounding in the humour blood'. ... This is a highly promising debut. (Anthony Fletcher, History)

Hannah Newton's The Sick Child in Early Modern England, 1580-1720 is a very good book ... Due to her extremely thorough review of both primary and secondary sources, Newton provides a nuanced and detailed discussion that is a pleasure to read. (Lucinda Myles McCray, Journal of British Studies)

The Sick Child is a major contribution to the histories of childhood, the family, parentchild relationships, religion and medical care. Hannah Newton writes with impressive clarity and sensitivity, forging a powerful argument that children were recognised in medical treatises as distinct from adults. (Joanne Bailey, Women's History Review)

Newton offers an innovating approach to the history of patients. ... With her courageous book Newton enriches academic discussion in the field of the history of patients, childhood and emotions. ... Newton's writing style is easy to understand, clear in the argumentation and a pleasure to read. (Iris Ritzmann, Social History of Medicine)

a consistently interesting study that creatively brings together the history of childhood, medicine, emotions, the body and religion in England from late Elizabethan to early Georgian times. (Martin Ingram, English Historical Review)

This book's value to historians of medicine is clear: Newton shows the important ways that age shaped patients' experiences, and she recovers those experiences among a broad range of children. This book surely will find its important place within scholarship on the history of illness as well as the history of children. (Olivia Weisser, Bulletin of the History of Medicine)

valuable and unusual insights into the experience of disease, pain, suffering and death of children in early modern England ... [the judging panel] liked the extraordinary and unusual approach to combine the social history of childhood, history of medicine and history of emotions ... particularly impressed by the way Hannah Newton combined scholarly rigor with empathy by giving a voice to children, mothers and fathers, and physicians. At the same time she contextualizes these personal accounts within a masterly presentation of the complex medical knowledge of the period. Her outstanding book has been reviewed enthusiastically in different scholarly journals. And after reading it, the jury could only agree with these reviews, and is very happy to award the prize to Hannah Newton. (Jury members' comments on the awarding of the European Association for the History of Medicine and Health 2015 Book Prize)

About the Author:

Hannah Newton is Wellcome Trust Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge.

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