Agnes Arnold-ForsterMar 31, 2021
The Cancer Problem
Malignancy in Nineteenth-Century Britain
Oxford University Press 2021
Agnes Arnold-Forster's book The Cancer Problem: Malignancy in Nineteenth-Century Britain (Oxford UP, 2021) offers the first medical, cultural, and social history of cancer in nineteenth-century Britain. It begins by looking at a community of doctors and patients who lived and worked in the streets surrounding the Middlesex Hospital in London. It follows in their footsteps as they walked the labyrinthine lanes and passages that branched off Tottenham Court Road; then, through seven chapters, its focus expands to successively include the rivers, lakes, and forests of England, the mountains, poverty, and hunger of the four nations of the British Isles, the reluctant and resistant inhabitants of the British Empire, and the networks of scientists and doctors spread across Europe and North America.
The Cancer Problem argues that it was in the nineteenth century that cancer acquired the unique emotional, symbolic, and politicized status it maintains today. Through an interrogation of the construction, deployment, and emotional consequences of the disease's incurability, this book reframes our conceptualization of the relationship between medicine and modern life and reshapes our understanding of chronic and incurable maladies, both past and present.
Rachel Pagones is chair of the doctoral program in acupuncture and Chinese medicine at Pacific College of Health and Science in San Diego and a licensed acupuncturist.