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Conclusion Rethinking Medicine and Modernity: Popular Medicine in Practice We Lived for the Body explores how Naturheilkunde evolved, survived, and thrived over a period of roughly 120 years and makes up part of an ongoing effort to rethink “Wilhelminism and its Legacies.” This study also attempts to recapture “futures past”—the possible futures imagined by Wilhelmine reformers. In the chapters on the nineteenth century roots of Naturheilkunde and on nature in the Wilhelmine era, I show how the practice of popular medicine shaped German ideas about nature, and how these ideas in turn changed the way natural healers thought about health and the body. Since the early nineteenth century, nature was thought to be a model for“the cure.” By the end of the century, natural healers and lifestyle entrepreneurs began to imagine nature as a model for not only healing but also healthful living.As Naturheilkunde evolved through the nineteenth century, it became a point of contact between a constellation of so-called Life-reform movements that were concerned with everything from fashion and leisure to housing policy and public hygiene. Historians have increasingly recognized that this constellation of reform movements played an important role in the Wilhelmine public sphere, driving popular opinion and even generating local, regional, and national political engagement. There were dozens of other organizations that were concerned with “reform” during the period between 1890 and 1918, and these organizations addressed issues large and small. Some (e.g., the German Navy League, the Pan-German League, and the German Society for Public 142 we lived for the body Health) exerted tremendous influence on popular opinion and policy directions. Others catered to just a few local members. The natural healing movement was, in this sense, just one among the myriad reform associations that populated the Wilhelmine landscape. But as I hope to have shown, it was also something more than just one among many movements: it played a central role in public and private lives. Natural healers laid hands on their patients; lifestyle entrepreneurs sold food products, self-help books, clothing, and bathing implements to Germans concerned with health and wellness; and natural healing associations provided social networks, bathing and sport facilities, educational outlets, and an introduction to local political activism. It was possible to participate in the movement as a dedicated member or a party activist , but it was also possible to be an occasional observer or even an outsider who just went to the baths or bought products associated with healing and wellness. Even for those who had little sympathy for the natural healing movement (for example, the members of the Women’s Association for the Advancement of Morality, whom we encountered in chapter 2), the principles and practices of the natural healing movement were familiar ones. And this is why, in my view, the natural healing movement was so successful: it was able to shape the Wilhelmine experience in part because it touched individual lives in casual ways (e.g., in bathing facilities that were enjoyed by millions) and in transformative ones. In the process, the natural healing movement helped to define the ways that Wilhelmine Germans thought about nature, health, individual bodies, and bodies social. In the second part of this book, I explored some of the particular challenges that faced Naturheilkunde in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and how the movement survived those challenges. As German medical associations tried to marginalize natural healing, the German League was joined by unlikely allies who claimed, for a variety of reasons, that natural healers were legitimate players in the free medical marketplace. Some of these allies were simply defending the rule of law and expressed no particular affinities for Naturheilkunde as such. Others thought that a competitive medical marketplace was important to ensure the continued evolution of medicine in its theory and practice. In this view, Naturheilkunde and“university medicine” comple- Conclusion 143 mented each another, with each pushing the other to provide better care. On the surface, those citing the rule of law and those concerned with better medicine seem to have little in common. Both positions, though, point to one important fact: medical associations were unable to sell their story to the public, or to convince enough people—police officials , legislators, newspaper editors, patients, consumers—that Naturheilkunde was marginal medicine. Part of the reason for the inability of“official medicine”to prevail was its inept public relations. But there is another, more important, reason: doctors’ associations were unable to convince the...


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