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Reviewed by:
  • Culture, Knowledge, and Healing: Historical Perspectives of Homeopathic Medicine in Europe and North America
  • John S. Haller Jr.
Robert Jütte, Guenter B. Risse, and John Woodward, eds. Culture, Knowledge, and Healing: Historical Perspectives of Homeopathic Medicine in Europe and North America. [End Page 526] Network Series, no. 3. Sheffield, U.K.: European Association for the History of Medicine and Health, 1998. xiv + 338 pp. £29.95.

This book contains original contributions on homeopathic medicine by Anna Bosanquet, J. T. H. Connor, Martin Dinges, Marijke Gijswijt-Hofstra, Robert Jütte, Bernard Leary, Maria Lorentzon, Arnold Michalowski, Guenter B. Risse, Naomi Rogers, Josef M. Schmidt, Dörte Staudt, John Harley Warner, Eberhard Wolff, and John Woodward. It focuses on three areas: historical perspectives of homeopathy as an alternative medicine; the evolution of homeopathy in Europe and North America; and homeopathy as it relates to patients, practitioners, and institutions.

The articles are noteworthy in that they seek to sort out the paradoxes that define the popularity of homeopathy in an age of reductionist science. Warner explores the ideology of medical orthodoxy, and the changes in medicine and society that eroded the boundaries between orthodoxy and homeopathy in the last third of the nineteenth century. The older homeopathy of the mid- and late-nineteenth century, joined at the hip to German romanticism, faded before the prospect of a professional class of physicians who took a newer German-inspired laboratory science as their badge of identity. Rogers explains how the homeopathic advocates of laboratory-based medicine in the late nineteenth century gradually embraced and integrated the definition of science, thereby losing their distinctive identity. With homeopathy no longer attached to its medical tradition, traditionalists languished until the counterculture values of the 1960s and 1970s, when a new self-conscious homeopathy emerged to reclaim its older romantic, high-potency, spiritual, holistic, reformist, and distinctly feminist tradition.

What these papers fail to explain is how the so-called newer homeopathy became more eclectic than homeopathic; except for certain fleeting value-judgments, it is grounded in an odd array of over-the-counter, self-help medicines (many of which have no relation to homeopathy) intended to complement or replace scientific, professional, and institutional medicine. While the authors are meticulous in recounting the relationship between homeopathy and scientific medicine in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, particularly with regard to the rise and fall of professionalization among homeopathic physicians, they neglect (with the exception of Connor) to apply the same analytic tools and insight to the more recent lay movement of unlicensed, self-care consumerism that operates under the umbrella of naturopathy, homeopathy, and other New Age titles.

Asserting that more than 40 percent of general practitioners in Britain offer complementary medicine within their practices, and that more than 70 percent refer patients to complementary medicine practitioners, Woodward and Warner suggest that the boundaries between regular and alternative medicine are less apparent than ever before. While this may be, it needs to be said that what is currently packaged under such catchwords as holistic, sectarian, integrative, alternative, or complementary medicine is largely the product of a lay movement disillusioned with the practice, not the breakthrough science, of reductionist [End Page 527] medicine. New Age medicine represents a parallel community of licensed and unlicensed healers who, embracing an eclectic mixture of remedies and practices, feed on the spiritual and personal side of healing.

This book is well worth the purchase by libraries, historians, sociologists, social anthropologists, and those interested in complementary medicine. Each of the contributors has given a distinctive edge to the topic. In addition, the book contains a preliminary directory of homeopathic materials in American archives, and a consolidated bibliography useful for researchers.

John S. Haller Jr.
Southern Illinois University, Carbondale
...

Additional Information

ISSN
1086-3176
Print ISSN
0007-5140
Pages
pp. 526-528
Launched on MUSE
1999-09-01
Open Access
No
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