The History of a Modern Malady
Distributed for Reaktion Books
Only a century ago, allergies as we know them didn’t exist. Ailments such as hay fever, asthma, and food intolerance were considered rare and non-fatal diseases that affected only the upper classes of Western society. Yet, as Jackson reveals here, what began in the early 1900s as a scorned subfield of immunology research in Europe and America exploded into great medical, cultural, and political significance by the end of that century. Allergy traces how the allergy became the archetypal “disease of civilization,” a fringe malady of the wealthy that became a disorder that bridged all socioeconomic boundaries and fueled anxieties over modernization. Jackson also examines the social impact of the allergy, as it required new therapeutic treatments and diagnostic procedures and brought in vast economic rewards.
Whether cats, crabgrass, or cheese is the source of your daily misery, Jackson’s engaging and in-depth historical narrative is an invaluable addition to the history of medicine as well as to the history of culture. In Allergy, sneezing readers can discover themselves at the center of deep cultural currents.
"The book provides a perceptive insight into the historical development of allergy, indicating how thinking changes. It gives fascinating vignettes of key researchers involved in the history of allergy and contains some interesting anecdotes about their lives. . . . Jackson’s succinct and clearly written book is aimed at the informed lay reader. He admirably avoids using jargon and scientific terminology, and gives fascinating insight into the rise in allergic diseases and how this is linked to our modern lifestyle. I recommend this book, which helps us to understand the relationship between health and the environment, and explains why modern living can be detrimental to our health."
"Wide ranging work. . . . Jackson illustrates his arguments with delightful reference to the culture and popular media of the day. . . . This book is a remarkable scholarly work that should serve as an exemplar of its genre."