The Story of Pain

The Story of Pain : From Prayer to Painkillers

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Everyone knows what is feels like to be in pain. Scraped knees, toothaches, migraines, giving birth, cancer, heart attacks, and heartaches: pain permeates our entire lives. We also witness other people - loved ones - suffering, and we 'feel with' them.

It is easy to assume this is the end of the story: 'pain-is-pain-is-pain', and that is all there is to say. But it is not. In fact, the way in which people respond to what they describe as 'painful' has changed considerably over time. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, for example, people believed that pain served a specific (and positive) function - it was a message from God or Nature; it would perfect the spirit. 'Suffer in this life and you wouldn't suffer in the next one'.
Submission to pain was required. Nothing could be more removed from twentieth and twenty-first century understandings, where pain is regarded as an unremitting evil to be 'fought'.

Focusing on the English-speaking world, this book tells the story of pain since the eighteenth century, addressing fundamental questions about the experience and nature of suffering over the last three centuries. How have those in pain interpreted their suffering - and how have these interpretations changed over time? How have people learnt to conduct themselves when suffering? How do friends and family react? And what about medical professionals: should they immerse themselves in the suffering
person or is the best response a kind of professional detachment?

As Joanna Bourke shows in this fascinating investigation, people have come up with many different answers to these questions over time. And a history of pain can tell us a great deal about how we might respond to our own suffering in the present - and, just as importantly, to the suffering of those around us.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 416 pages
  • 133 x 214 x 22mm | 500g
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 31 black and white halftones
  • 0199689431
  • 9780199689439
  • 109,513

Table of contents

1: Introduction
2: Estrangement
3: Metaphor
4: Religion
5: Diagnosis
6: Gesture
7: Sentience
8: Sympathy
9: Pain Relief
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Review Text

Historians and general readers alike will find much of interest in this entertaining and thoughtful book, with its meticulously researched wealth of patient accounts throughout history. History Today, Stephanie Eichberg
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Review quote

Joanna Bourke has drawn a fascinating picture of pain from a very broad perspective both in terms of time and in the sources she uses. We see how attitudes to pain have changed over the centuries and how our modern technological advances are again changing how we communicate pain and its suffering. Are we less courageous when dealing with pain than our ancestors were? asks Joanna Bourke. Astonishing what I have learnt about pain from a historian, which will be of
value in my clinical work. An absorbing and thought provoking book, a must read for pain physicians. * Professor Joanna Zakrzewska, UCL * A book that deserves wide readership. * Church of England newspaper * Enthralling. * Jim Young, Glycosmedia * Ambitious and original. * Jonathan Ree, the guardian * The Story of Pain conveys sensations with wincing precision and an admirable humanity. * Simon Ings, New Scientist * The Story of Pain shines valuable light into a universal experience. * Nicholas Shakespeare, The Daily Telegraph * [A] riveting study, which feels timely and important. * Max Liu, The Independent * Erudite and witty ... Joanna Bourke is that rare bird, an academic who manages to combine erudite scholarship with a sharp wit and an accessible prose style. This is a bold and impressive book about an enemy that knows no historical or cultural bounds. * Salley Vickers, The Observer * Enthralling ... Drawing on philosophy, history, medicine, literature and even theology. The Story of Pain invites us to look again at a fundamental aspect of human life, and to reconsider the richness and the poverty of pain. * Richard Bennet, Lancet * A serious, absorbing book * James McConnachie, Sunday Times * [A] perceptive study. * Nature * This is a compelling history of a great source of human misery. * Leyla Sanai, Independent on Sunday * It is a tightly argued account of pain as vital to the concerns of bioscientists and clinicians as it is to the interests of scholars of the humanities and the human sciences. * Brian Hurwitz, Times Higher Education * What Bourke has given us is an extensive and beautifully organized collection of materials that will serve as an invaluable resource for researchers from many different disciplines. It is a formidable scholarly achievement, which sheds a varied and often unexpected light on one of the most pervasive and challenging aspects of human existence. * John Cottingham, Tablet * The Story of Pain is a fascinating rousing story of mad and wanton cruelty: throughout human history, such shafts of compassion only occasionally and reluctantly break through. * Roger Lewis, Daily Mail * Bourke has interesting things to say about the language of pain ... [She] has read widely, and produced some interesting reflections on what it means to be in pain, how pain is socially structured and dealth with, as well as the limits of our contemporary embrace of chemical means of coping with pain. * Andrew Scull, The Times Literary Supplement * Bourke's book is a magnificent feat of research ... As an insight into the roots of medical perspectives on pain, and why we're often so bad at tackling it, Bourke's history will help. * Gavin Francis, London Review of Books * The breadth of The Story of Pain is one of its principal strengths, as the book's fascinating and illuminating examples shift masterfully and continually across the Western world and between the 18th century and the present day ... Bourke has provided a remarkable book, which is both highly valuable in its own right and which also provides the groundwork and impetus for further study. The Story of Pain is a detailed, thought-provoking and
fascinating piece of historical scholarship. * Dr. Jennifer Crane, Reviews in History * Joanna Bourkes brilliant study of pain shows us exactly why pain is both so very personal to each of us and so elusive to scientific description, even in the 21st century. * Sander Gilman, Irish Times * This is a serious, absorbing book * John Hinton, Catholic Herald * In The Story of Pain: From Prayer to Painkillers historian Joanna Bourke charts the ways in which pain was felt in the past and shows that sensation itself is inextricably bound up with mind, culture and soul. She scours medical and psychological sources, images, gestures and written testimony to build up a picture of suffering and its interpretations since the 18th century. Like Gawande, her underlying question is: can we learn to "suffer better"? * Lisa Appignanesi, Book of the Year 2014, Guardian * Joanna Bourke's premise is that pain has a history: it is not simply a physiological event but also a cultural affair, making "pain" inherently social. We really do feel differently, react differently, in relation to pain, depending upon the metaphors and language we have for understanding it. * Lynne Segal, Book of the Year 2014, Times Higher Education * Joanna Bourke, in The Story of Pain, provides a highly original and thought-provoking study ofthe modern experiences of pain with the potential to open up innumerable areas of inquiry in medical humanities research. * British Journal for the History of Science, Ian Miller * Historians and general readers alike will find much of interest in this entertaining and thoughtful book, with its meticulously researched wealth of patient accounts throughout history. * History Today, Stephanie Eichberg *
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About Joanna Bourke

Joanna Bourke is Professor of History at Birkbeck College, University of London. She is the prize-winning author of nine books, including histories of modern warfare, military medicine, psychology and psychiatry, the emotions, and rape. Among others, she is the author of Dismembering the Male: Men's Bodies, Britain, and the Great War (1996), An Intimate History of Killing (1999), Fear: A Cultural History (2005) and Rape: A History from
1860 to the Present (2007), What it Means to be Human: Reflections from 1791 to the Present (2011), and Wounding the World: How Military Violence and War-Play Invade our Lives (2014). An Intimate History of Killing won the Wolfson Prize and the Fraenkel Prize, and 'Eyewitness', her audio history of Britain, won a number of prizes,
including the Gold for the Most Original Audio. She is also a frequent contributor to TV and radio shows, and a regular newspaper correspondent.
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Rating details

80 ratings
3.65 out of 5 stars
5 21% (17)
4 34% (27)
3 34% (27)
2 11% (9)
1 0% (0)
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