The British in this book lived in India from shortly after the reign of Elizabeth I until well into the reign of Elizabeth II. They were soldiers, officials, businessmen, doctors and missionaries of both sexes, planters, engineers and many others, together with children, wives and sisters. This book describes their lives, their work and their extraordinarily varied interactions with the native populations; it also records the very diverse roles they played in the three centuries of British-Indian history. Gilmour writes of people who have never been written about before, men and women who are presented here with humanity and often with humour. The result is a magnificent tapestry of life, an exceptional work of scholarly recovery which reads like a great nineteenth-century novel. It makes a highly original and engaging contribution to a long an important period of British and Indian history.
DAILY MAIL, GUARDIAN AND OBSERVER BOOKS OF THE YEAR 2017 Winner of the 2018 PEN/E.O. Wilson Prize for Literary Science Writing Shortlisted for the 2018 Wellcome Book Prize Shortlisted for the 2018 Wolfson Prize
The story of a visionary British surgeon whose quest to unite science and medicine delivered us into the modern world - the safest time to be alive in human history
Victorian operating theatres were known as 'gateways of death', Lindsey Fitzharris reminds us, since half of those who underwent surgery didn't survive the experience. This was an era when a broken leg could lead to amputation, when surgeons often lacked university degrees, and were still known to ransack cemeteries to find cadavers. While the discovery of anaesthesia somewhat lessened the misery for patients, ironically it led to more deaths, as surgeons took greater risks. In squalid, overcrowded hospitals, doctors remained baffled by the persistent infections that kept mortality rates stubbornly high.
At a time when surgery couldn't have been more dangerous, an unlikely figure stepped forward: Joseph Lister, a young, melancholy Quaker surgeon. By making the audacious claim that germs were the source of all infection - and could be treated with antiseptics - he changed the history of medicine forever.
With a novelist's eye for detail, Fitzharris brilliantly conjures up the grisly world of Victorian surgery, revealing how one of Britain's greatest medical minds finally brought centuries of savagery, sawing and gangrene to an end.