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Pathologies of Travel

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The essays in this volume, which range across Europe, America and Africa, and from the 18th to the 20th centuries, argue that the experience of travel, and the business of representing that experience, involved an obligatory engagement with the disturbing perception that travel's pleasures were inseparable from its dangers and ennuis. Despite the confidence of some medical authorities in their recommendations of the therapeutic benefits to be derived from ‘change of air' as a way of restoring a state of health, such opinions failed to establish a consensus, either amongst those who followed such peripatetic prescriptions, or amongst the medical professions in general. Mad doctors and climatologists alike were forced to adopt an essentially partisan stance in arguing their case for such recommendations, and were confronted by rival practitioners who could marshal counter-case histories which demonstrated diametrically opposed conclusions concerning the advisability of travel. To this extent, the history of travel and its pathologies is a particularly revealing instance of the way medical thinking was dependent on localised studies which might do more to challenge the universal applicability of generally accepted theories than they did to confirm their diagnostic reliability. The essays collected here not only contribute to our understanding of the conception and application of a variety of medical ideas, showing how they depended on beliefs about climate and corporeal constitution as well as often inconsistent data or récits culled from travellers and geographically dispersed case histories, but also open up illuminatingly complex perspectives on the uncertainties and dangers of the phenomenon of modern travel.

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