Accidents in History

Injuries, Fatalities and Social Relations


Editors: Roger Cooter and Bill Luckin
There is now an extensive literature on the social and environmental consequences of living in the risk society. Studies of trauma are also increasingly prominent. But scant attention has been paid to perceptions of risk and danger in the past — in particular, to the history of accidents and the meanings of the accidental. This collection of interdisciplinary essays addresses this lacuna providing a theoretically informed historical sociology of the accident and risk. It explores the social and cultural contexts in which ‘acts of God', calamities, catastrophes, disasters, injuries, casualties, and other category of ‘mishaps' were experienced, conceptualized and responded to.
Drawing on the skills of British, European and North American scholars, Accidents in History combines philosophical, sociological and ecological overviews with in-depth historical case-studies. It spans the period from the eighteenth century to the present, probing the epistemological, social and political roots of the accidental. The authors differentiate between industrial and other forms of injury; trace the origins of the normalization of accidents; and analyze the interactions and gendered discrepancies between domestic and non-domestic mishaps. They also investigate the medicalization of sudden injury, and discuss the emergence of new socio-medical and humanitarian discourses around the organization of relief for victims.

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Review Quotes

”… [an] important, pioneering book… , the brief bibliography is valuable […] This is a pioneering work … an original and important book … it will, more than most histories, make the reader think about large questions such as the meaning of fate - both personal and social - in history. The unforeseen has had devastating effects on ordinary people and whole societies … Not only specialists in the history of technology, medicine, gender, and the inarticulate should know these essays - the social reactions to accidents, as the authors show, can illuminate all social history.” in: JOURNAL OF SOCIAL HISTORY, Vol. 32, Nr. 2

Table of contents

Acknowledgements. Roger COOTER and Bill LUCKIN: Accidents in History: An Introduction. Robert CAMPBELL: Philosophy and the Accident. Judith GREEN: Accidents: The Remnants of a Modern Classificatory System. Arthur F. McEVOY: Working Environments: An Ecological Approach to Industrial Health and Safety. Roy PORTER: Accidents in the Eighteenth Century. Roger COOTER: The Moment of the Accident: Culture, Militarism and Modernity in Late-Victorian Britain. John F. HUTCHINSON: Civilian Ambulances and Lifesaving Societies: The European Experience, 1870-1914. Dietrich MILLES: What are Occupational Diseases? Risk and Risk Manage-ment in Industrial Medicine in Germany. Joel A. TARR and Mark TEBEAU: Housewives as Home Safety Managers: The Changing Perception of the Home as a Place of Hazard and Risk, 1870-1940. Bill LUCKIN: War on the Roads: Traffic Accidents and Social Tension in Britain, 1939-45. Bibliography. Index.

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