Released on 26 jun 2014

Announcing the publication of The Story of Pain, by Joanna Bourke

Everyone knows what pain is, surely? Read this book and think again.

In fact, the way in which people respond to what they describe as ‘painful’ has changed dramatically over the last 300 years. For example, in the 18th and 19th centuries many people believed that pain served a specific (and positive) purpose – it was a message from God or Nature. ‘Suffer in this life, and you won’t suffer in the next one.’ Nothing could be more removed from more modern understandings, where pain is regarded as an unremitting evil to be ‘fought’.

The Story of Pain by Joanna Bourke goes back through the past 300 years to address fundamental questions about the experience and nature of pain and suffering. How have those in pain interpreted their suffering? How have those interpretations changed? How have people learned to conduct themselves while in pain? How do family and friends react? And what about medical professionals: should they immerse themselves in the suffering person, or is the best response a kind of professional detachment?

As Joanna Bourke shows in this fascinating book, people have come up with many different answers over time. The history of pain can tells us about how we might respond to our own suffering in the present – and, just as importantly, to the suffering of those around us.

Joanna Bourke is Professor of History at Birkbeck, University of London. She is the prize-winning author of nine books, including histories of modern warfare, military medicine, psychology and psychiatry, emotions, rape, and the human/animal divide. An Intimate History of Killing won the Wolfson Prize and the Fraenkel Prize. She is a frequent contributor to TV and radio, and a regular newspaper correspondent.

26 June 2014 | Hardback | £20.00 | 978-0-19-968942-2

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