Hilary A. Smith
’s new book examines the evolution of a Chinese disease concept, foot qi (jiao qi
) from its documented origins in the fourth century to the present day. However, at its heart Forgotten Disease: Illnesses Transformed in Chinese Medicine
(Stanford University Press, 2017) isn’t so much about the history of foot qi and its associated constellation of disease concepts, as it is about the larger questions of how we approach the pre-modern history of disease and understand historical disease concepts more generally. As a result, while readers looking for accounts that form part of a global history of beriberi and of athlete’s foot will find much of interest here, Smith’s book is of much wider interest as a pointed methodological intervention into how we might approach a history of disease in local contexts “on their own terms.”
Carla Nappi is the Andrew W. Mellon Chair in the Department of History at the University of Pittsburgh. You can learn more about her and her work here.