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Review

Reviewed Work: The Greatest Benefit to Mankind: A Medical History of Humanity from Antiquity to the Present by Roy Porter
Review by: Constance E. Putnam
Journal of Social History
Vol. 32, No. 4 (Summer, 1999), pp. 935-940
Published by: Oxford University Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3789898
Page Count: 6
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Abstract

In a masterful sweep through time and geography, Roy Porter traces the history of humanity by examining medical history, a novel approach that appears self-evidently appropriate by the time Porter is done. This essay undertakes to assess the many merits of Porter's effort, with frequent quotations to give a flavor of his superb essayist's style and some indication of how he manages to weave general and specific into a coherent whole. One emphasis of the review is on Porter's challenges to other historians; a second focus is on his view of modern medicine. Porter is at pains to remind his readers that what we are inclined to view as medical progress has side-effects that are not wholly benign. Thus medicine is still striving to live up to its billing as "the greatest benefit to mankind."

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