The Medicine book placed upright next to glass bottles in the museum

Medicine: A Magnificently Illustrated History by Briony Hudson and Nick Taylor

Each month we review a book from Mildred's extensive library. This month's book is Medicine: A Magnificently Illustrated History by Briony Hudson and Nick Taylor, reviewed by Sara, the museum's Events Coordinator.

Magnificent is truly the right word to describe this book. A visual masterpiece, Medicine: A Magnificently Illustrated History provides an excellent, exciting introduction to the history of medicine. Hudson and Taylor break away from the singular scope of Western history, engaging with a wider and more detailed story of medicine through the ages.

Recommended for a 9- to 12-year-old reading age, much like a Lego set this book can find a captive audience in any age from 9 to 99. An insightfully full history, this book engages the reader through comic strips, newspaper cutouts, and wonderfully vibrant diagrams. Not from a medical background myself, I found this book an engaging and creatively stimulating way to familiarise myself better with the history.

What I found particularly brilliant about this book is how it insightfully documents how historical research has led to the understanding of our medical past, through the study of archaeology, written records, material artefacts, and even the MRI scans of mummified bodied. As a historian, what I particularly appreciated was the discussion of how historical interpretation has changed over time. Engaging this understanding of how historical research is conducted and developed is an appreciated addition.

Hudson and Taylor don’t shy away from the tougher areas either, despite the book’s young target audience. They have made sure to include topics around medical ethics, including an excellent section on the important story of Henrietta Lacks and developments in consent in medical research – in particular, outlining how it wasn’t until 2021 that Lacks received official recognition for her invaluable legacy.

Bringing together the past, present, and future of medicine, this book engages with the way we understand our own health and the medical care we receive. The perfect book to continue your journey through the history of health and medicine, alongside a visit to The Old Operating Theatre Museum.

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About the Reviewer

Sara works as Events Coordinator at The Old Operating Theatre Museum & Herb Garret. She is also an historian of death and grief, and volunteers as Vice-Chair of The London Museums of Health and Medicine network. Sara moved to London from Wales during the first Covid-19 lockdown, and has since been trying to visit every museum in London.

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