Top critical review
Too brief for such a wide subject matter
on 25 March 2015
This is a brief and well written exploration of the history of medicine. It starts well and contains lots of interesting information but by about two thirds of the way through the limitations of the size of the book in comparison with the possible subject matter becomes apparent.
The author is not just attempting to talk about the different ways in which treatments have been applied to the human body but he also considers how medicine is viewed philosophically and also socially. I thought a lot of this was interesting and I understood that if I wanted to know more I would need to look at a more in depth study (there is an excellent bibliography at the end of the book for just this purpose). As he gets into the modern era, however, there is too much that he cannot consider in detail such as very modern treatments, different ways of funding healthcare, the rise of alternative medicine and the medicalisation of things such as childbirth. He attempts some of these but might perhaps have been better not to have done because there isn't the room to give these even a brief overview that justified including them - my copy of this book has only 169 pages of text.
There was also one amazing omission in that he never considers attitudes to mental health in the book at all - changing attitudes to this would make an interesting contrast with the changes in physical health and the two are so intertwined that it doesn't really make sense to exclude it.
The early part of this book when the author discussed early medicine and how that works in European society (he excludes other areas of the world) is excellent but the book doesn't have space to include everything it should and what it does include is often truncated to such a degree that it is not really good enough even in such a short book.