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Bulletin of the History of Medicine 80.2 (2006) 400-401
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The facsimiles in this collection lead up to and include the Great Famine in Ireland in the years 1845–49, but the editors emphasize the documents' relevance to the contemporary world: "Although famine was largely in retreat from the western parts of Europe by the early nineteenth century, it lingered in the east for decades thereafter. In Asia and Africa it still occurs with tragic consequences. The experiences in these regions display at least some of the features evident in Ireland up to the mid-nineteenth century" (1: xiii). The editors conclude that "the social structure of Ireland made the community vulnerable to famine whenever events—weather, warfare, plant disease—conspired to destroy food supplies. Whenever governments responded to the social dislocation caused by famine and disease, the range of actions they adopted was not unlike those seen today" (1: xxix).
Volume 1 begins with the editors' preface; it and the other volumes contain the facsimiles themselves, with chronologies of the authors' lives and works, bibliographies, and notes.
Julius Jeffreys (1800–1877) was a physician, an anatomist, a businessman, a traveler. His main professional interest was in improving the climate for individuals. His work ranged from major efforts to improve conditions for "recuperating soldiers [End Page 400] in the Indian Army" (p. xi) to "encouraging friends and relatives to move to unpolluted regions of the world" (p. xi).
This biography mixes the personal and the professional. Chapters move chronologically from Jeffreys's background (ancestors, parents, siblings) to his work in India; his first marriage; his development of the respirator (which, according to the authors, was a word coined by Jeffreys himself, to identify a device for warming inhaled breath [p. xii]); his book Views upon the Statics of the Human Chest, published in 1843; his second marriage; his work with the British Army in India; his semiretirement; and his legacy. Although the biography is not framed by any contextual discussion of Jeffreys and his work, it brings to view a then-notable figure in nineteenth-century British medicine and science.
"Few historians of the Atlantic region have turned their attention to the history of health despite a flourishing regional scholarship," writes the author of this book, which intends to put health-care...