Wellcome Trust Library Presentation: In Two Parts

Activity: Talk or presentationInvited talk

Laura Neff - Speaker

A talk centered on my PhD research and how I use the Wellcome Trust Library collections in the various aspects of my research. This half-hour talk was presented to Library Staff.

Wellcome Trust Library Presentation: Abstract Submission Part 1: The Abdominal Abyss: The Surgical Exploration of Maternal Medicine in the Nineteenth Century AND Part II: The Secret Life of Surgical Textbooks: Excising the History of Surgery at the Wellcome Trust Library ABSTRACT: Part I: The Abdominal Abyss: The Surgical Exploration of Maternal Medicine in the Nineteenth Century The history of surgery and its entanglement with Empire has long been underexplored in the History of Medicine. Initially, abdominal surgery was considered unmanageable in the mid-nineteenth century, for example male abdominal surgery was only performed in cases of extreme trauma, violence or injury. It was not until the early twentieth century that abdominal surgeries were executed routinely, in men and women, for particular morbid conditions such as cancer, intestinal obstruction or extensive damage. However, the bodies of women in Britain in the long nineteenth century, in cases of difficult deliveries, complicated pregnancies or reproductive tumours presented an urgent and necessary entry into the abdominal cavity. Foetal life, as a medical priority, permeated the obstetric discourse of many surgeons, although this exploration of the female body was fraught with risk, and many practitioners, physicians or surgeons, refused to perform an abdominal operation even when there was no alternative method for delivery. From these womanly bodies’ surgeons created a female form that was increasingly abnormal, in a state of constant flux, requiring surgical intervention to avoid danger—yet ironically, many of these procedures exposed women and their unborn children to infection, disease and ultimately death. Thus, an examination of the social and cultural questions surrounding obstetric and surgical procedures reveals a truly compelling dialogue of medical ethics during an age of Empire. Part II: The Secret Life of Surgical Textbooks: Excising the History of Surgery at the Wellcome Trust Library The Wellcome Trust Library’s Medical Collection is composed of a variety of surgical textbooks relating to the diseases of women and abdominal surgery. These printed sources reveal surgical practices, theories and ethical dilemmas faced by abdominal and gynaecological surgeons. As many of the primary sources left by these surgeons survive only in printed form, the unique collection at the Wellcome Library allows for a careful reconstruction of the professional community and personal squabbles that emerged during the development of abdominal surgery in the late-nineteenth century. Sources such as surgical textbooks, family and student biographies, personal letters, and medical case-notes provide insight into the lives and practices of these male surgeons. Without the collection at the
31 Jul 2013

External organisation (Funding body)

NameWellcome Trust
AcronymWT

ID: 30603315