When asked to compare the practice of medicine today to that of a hundred years ago, most people will respond with a story of therapeutic revolution: back then we had few effective remedies, now we have more (and more powerful) tools to fight disease, from antibiotics to psychotropics to steroids to anticancer agents. This collection challenges the historical accuracy of this revolutionary narrative and offers instead a more nuanced account of the process of therapeutic innovation and the relationships between the development of medicines and social change. These assembled histories and ethnographies span three continents and use the lived experiences of physicians and patients, consumers and providers, and marketers and regulators to reveal the tensions between universal claims of therapeutic knowledge and the actual ways they have been used and understood in specific sites, from postwar West Germany pharmacies to twenty-first century Nigerian street markets. By asking us to rethink a story we thought we knew, Therapeutic Revolutions offers invaluable insights to historians, anthropologists, and social scientists of medicine.
Jeremy A. Greene is professor of medicine and the history of medicine and the Elizabeth Treide and A. McGehee Harvey Chair in the History of Medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. He is the author of Prescribing by Numbers: Drugs and the Definition of Disease and Generic: The Unbranding of Modern Medicine. Flurin Condrau is professor and director of the Institute and Museum of the History of Medicine at the University of Zurich and coeditor of Tuberculosis Then and Now: Current Issues in the History of an Infectious Disease. Elizabeth Siegel Watkins is dean of the Graduate Division, vice chancellor of Student Academic Affairs, and professor of the history of health science at the University of California, San Francisco. She is the author of On the Pill: A Social History of Oral Contraceptives, 1950-1970 and The Estrogen Elixir: A History of Hormone Replacement Therapy in America, coeditor of Medicating Modern America: Prescription Drugs in History, and, with Jeremy Greene, editor of Prescribed: Writing, Filling, Using, and Abusing the Prescription in Modern America.