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Bodily Matters: The Anti-Vaccination Movement in England, 1853-1907 (Radical Perspectives) [Paperback]

Nadja Durbach
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Book Description

20 Dec 2004 Radical Perspectives
Bodily Matters explores the anti-vaccination movement that emerged in England in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth in response to government-mandated smallpox vaccination. By requiring a painful and sometimes dangerous medical procedure for all infants, the Compulsory Vaccination Act set an important precedent for state regulation of bodies. From its inception in 1853 until its demise in 1907, the compulsory smallpox vaccine was fiercely resisted, largely by members of the working class who interpreted it as an infringement of their rights as citizens and a violation of their children's bodies. Nadja Durbach contends that the anti-vaccination movement is historically significant not only because it was arguably the largest medical resistance campaign ever mounted in Europe but also because it clearly articulated pervasive anxieties regarding the integrity of the body and the role of the modern state. Analyzing historical documents on both sides of the vaccination debate, Durbach focuses on the key events and rhetorical strategies of the resistance campaign. She shows that those for and against the vaccine had very different ideas about how human bodies worked and how best to safeguard them from disease. Individuals opposed to mandatory vaccination saw their own and their children's bodies not as potentially contagious and thus dangerous to society but rather as highly vulnerable to contamination and violation. Bodily Matters challenges the notion that resistance to vaccination can best be understood, and thus easily dismissed, as the ravings of an unscientific "lunatic fringe." It locates the anti-vaccination movement at the very center of broad public debates in Victorian England over medical developments, the politics of class, the extent of government intervention into the private lives of its citizens, and the values of a liberal society.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 296 pages
  • Publisher: Duke University Press (20 Dec 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0822334232
  • ISBN-13: 978-0822334231
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 17 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,124,984 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"This fascinating book uses the anti-vaccination movement to illuminate our understanding of the major themes in nineteenth-century British history: the nature of liberalism, class tensions, and resistance to state intervention. Beautifully written, it brings the movement to life."--Anna Clark, author of Scandal: The Sexual Politics of the British Constitution "All too often the large-scale resistance to compulsory vaccination in England has been treated as a quaint case study in 'anti-modern' or 'irrational' opposition to scientific progress. Nadja Durbach has made a key contribution to modern British history in particular and to the analysis of class culture more generally by rescuing this resistance to state medicine from what E. P. Thompson memorably termed 'the enormous condescension of posterity.'"--George Behlmer, author of Friends of the Family: The English Home and Its Guardians, 1850-1940 "Timely and absorbing..."--Susan Pedersen, London Review of Books "Fascinating."--Christopher Hamlin, American Historical Review "Fascinating... Durbach writes well, and her book provides ... abundant opportunity to reflect upon the many ways in which arguments in health care frequently are 'about' a great deal more than initially appears to be the case."--Edward E. St. Godard, Canadian Medical Association Journal "A clearly argued and detailed examination... Bodily Matters is an accessible work that should appeal to a broad range of readers."--Dan Malleck, History, Reviews of New Books "Bodily Matters gives us a new insight into antivaccination but shows us that much remains to be discovered about this curious Victorian protest movement."--Deborah Brunton, Journal of British Studies "Engaging... Durbach convincingly rescues the anti-vaccination movement from the fringes of medical, political, and social history, and demonstrates that anti-vaccinationists should be seen as central players in the construction of Victorianism... A lively narrative."--Marjorie Levine-Clark, H-Albion, H-Net Reviews "This outstandingly vital work is a breakthrough in the historiography of English anti-vaccinationism."--Logie Barrow, Medical History "Nadia Durbach's book ... is a sympathetic, nuanced, well-researched, and clearly written account of antivaccinationism in its historical context."--Peter Baldwin, Bulletin of the History of Medicine "Bodily Matters makes an important contribution to the contemporary reassessment of many facets of Victorian Culture." --Martin Finchman, Victorian Studies "Nadja Durbach's Bodily Matters... should be welcomed by students of health, gender, and citizenship." --Chris Dooley, Left History "Durbach's insightful study is the most comprehensive and sophisticated treatment of this profoundly misunderstood English movement... A highly persuasive and ground-breaking analysis of the main ingredients of the Victorian anti-vaccination movement and its impact on Victorian society."--Jennifer E. Keelan, Body and Society "Durbach provides a nuanced understanding of activists' words and actions."--James Colgrove, Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law "Durbach's account of the anti-vaccination movement is clearly and forcefully written and provides an authoritative survey of Victorian debates about the role of the state in disease prevention. Bodily Matters will engage anyone interested in public health and the history of epidemiology, and post-9/11 fears about bioterrorism and the looming threat of a bird flu pandemic may broaden the audience for this text."--Solveig C. Robinson, Perspectives in Biology and Medicine "Clearly written and pointedly illustrated, the book focuses on the key events and strategies of the anti-vaccinationists' campaign... Bodily Matters is not, however, simply a contribution to the subdiscipline of medical history. Big themes of general British nineteenth-century history play a significant part in this story, and anti-vaccinationism, as Durbach shows, provides a useful example of the tensions between Old Liberalism and New Liberalism, class relations, gender issues, and resistance to state intervention."--Anne Hardy, History "Durbach writes about an important and little known footnote in the history of public health in a readable and accessible style... recommend this to anyone with an interest in the history, politics or ethics of public health, and the vexed questions around personal liberty and the collective benefits of medical technology."--Christopher C. Potter, Journal of Public Health "Durbach has produced a rich and sympathetic picture of those stigmatised by many Victorians and their successors as mad, bad, dangerous, poor, stupid, or downright bloodyminded... [An] important book..."--Chris Lawrence, Metascience "Bodily Matters provides a detailed and meticulous study of the complexities of the movement... A useful pioneering study of a neglected aspect of Victorian medical politics."--Lesley A. Hall, Victorians Institute Journal

About the Author

Nadja Durbach is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Utah, Salt Lake City.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Point To Prove 29 Oct 2009
By Neutral VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
My father never believed in vaccination. Consequently, none of his three sons were inoculated against childhood diseases and all survived those illnesses they contracted (in my case scarlet fever, against which there was no vaccine). Reading Nadja Durbach's book "Bodily Matters", which examines the Victorian anti-vaccination campaign, I now understand where some of his attitudes originated.

The book's qualitative research is marred only by Durbach's interpretation of history within the parameters of Michel Foucault's theory of biopolitics and socialist inspired notions of class and gender. Thus, while she provides excellent narrative, her conclusions under-estimate alternative explanations to those she prefers. Her main claim is that in Victorian times, "Parliament consistently introduced, local authorities enforced and the judicial system upheld legislation that focused on bodily issues..... (and) the British state became intimately involved in bodily matters as never before."

Durbach sees this trend as a matter of social and political control but tends to downplay the public health concerns underlying the decision to prevent the spread of contagious diseases which were more prevalent amongst the working classes. During the eighteenth century smallpox killed, on average, 40,000 Europeans each year and it was against this backdrop, ideas of universal progress and the rise of professional science (including medicine) that compulsion was introduced in 1853. The political nature of legislation is self evident but the rationale was not State control over the body but the principle of the common good.
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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
3 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars History repeats itself! 16 Dec 2009
By M. Born - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Are we repeating history with forced vaccinations? What are we doing to our children with these viruses placed directly into the blood stream? How does this affect their health in later years and how does this affect our right to choose what is healthy? This book creates amazing paralles with what is happening now and what happened a century ago. This book may create a guideline to defending our freedom of health choice.
1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best books written on history of mandatory vaccination 22 Jun 2010
By Dr Sherri - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I love this book. I've recommended it in all of my conferences and presentations. Anyone interested in the history of mandatory vaccination, and why vaccination is part of the DNA of the medical profession, should read this very well written and documented book. I used this book as a reference for my book, "Saying No to Vaccines."
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