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Title: A modern history of the stomach : gastric illness, medicine and British society c.1800-1950
Author: Miller, Ian Robert
ISNI:       0000 0001 1981 8417
Awarding Body: The University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2009
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This thesis will detail a brief overview of the modern history of the stomach, analysing not only the responses of the medical community to its various conditions but also the wider socio-cultural aspects of the organ's illnesses in Britain throughout the broad period 1800-1950. In doing so, I also aim to address issues relevant to peptic ulcer epidemiology, adding complexity to existing models of the 'rise and fall' of the disease during the nineteenth and early-twentieth century. The thesis begins by revealing why and how the Victorians became obsessed with matters of digestion and the manner by which the maintenance of the health of the stomach became conceptualised as holding the potential to ensure overall bodily health. I shall investigate the numerous advice manuals on the topic intended to be read by physicians, surgeons and the general public, all of which, I shall suggest, prioritised the stomach as the most important of all of the major bodily organs amidst an increasing emphasis in the medical literature upon concepts of nervousness. By doing so, I aim to explore relationships perceived as existing between the stomach, the individual and industrial, civilised British society during the nineteenth-century. I shall then contrast these representations of the stomach with those provided by emergent forms of reductionist medicine. I shall assess the centrality of the stomach within laboratory medicine, assessing the role of ethically problematic experiments undertaken on dogs and monkeys, including sham-feeding and the production of stomach ulcers via acid injections in monkeys. I then relate this to the technologies that emerged and the transference of these onto the human, a process which I suggest accumulated in the use of the stomach tube to force-feed imprisoned Suffragette campaigners during the early decades of the twentieth century. Contemporaneously, abdominal surgery also offered highly reductionist models of the stomach's bodily role, which deprioritised its importance to the maintenance of general health. Notably, turn-of-the-century surgeons regularly attempted to remove the organ in the belief that the human could live healthily completely stomachless. Yet, I argue that they also partitioned the organ by providing more precise definitions of its medical conditions in any given part of the organ, forming a sharp contrast to the arguably more vague interpretations of the organ previously on offer. This allowed for diagnostic shifts that encouraged the recognition of problems such as duodenal ulcer. The thesis concludes by analysing the phenomena of 'air-raid ulcers' and 'dyspeptic soldiers' during the Second World War, a period when alarming numbers of British people, both in military and civilian settings, began to suffer from crippling gastric complaints. In doing so, I aim to assess the revival of patient-orientated concepts that characterised nineteenth-century constructions of gastric illness, although stressing that what was now emphasised was the role of the psychosomatic rather than somatopsychic.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available