Everyone knows what it feels like to be in pain. We also witness other people - loved ones - suffering, and we 'feel with' them. But how do we communicate pain to others? Many people in pain start by saying 'it cannot be expressed in words'... and then go on to give very 'wordy' accounts of their feelings. Most of us assume that pain-is-pain-is-pain. But it is not. How people respond to what they describe as 'painful' has changed over time. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, for example, people believed that pain served a specific (and positive) function - it was a message from God or Nature; it would perfect the spirit.
'Suffer in this life and you wouldn't suffer in the next one'. Submission to pain was required. Nothing could be more removed from twentieth and twenty-first century understandings, where pain is regarded as an unremitting evil to be 'fought'. This book looks at people who are in pain: how have they interpreted their suffering? What do they do? How do friends and family react? What about medical professional: should they immerse themselves in the suffering person or is the best response a kind of professional detachment?
As Joanna Bourke shows, a history of pain tells us a great deal about the many ways we can respond to our own pains - and to those of others.
About the Author
Joanna Bourke is Professor of History at Birkbeck College, University of London. She is the prize-winning author of nine books, including histories of modern warfare, military medicine, psychology and psychiatry, the emotions, and rape. Among others, she is the author of Dismembering the Male: Men's Bodies, Britain, and the Great War (1996), An Intimate History of Killing (1999), Fear: A Cultural History (2005) and Rape: A History from 1860 to the Present (2007), and What it Means to be Human: Reflections from 1791 to the Present (2011).
An Intimate History of Killing won the Wolfson Prize and the Fraenkel Prize, and 'Eyewitness', her audio history of Britain, won a number of prizes, including the Gold for the Most Original Audio. She is also a frequent contributor to TV and radio shows, and a regular newspaper correspondent.
`Erudite and witty ... Joanna Bourke is that rare bird, an academic who manages to combine erudite scholarship with a sharp wit and an accessible prose style. This is a bold and impressive book about an enemy that knows no historical or cultural bounds.'
Salley Vickers, The Observer
`[A] riveting study, which feels timely and important.'
Max Liu, The Independent
`The Story of Pain shines valuable light into a universal experience.'
Nicholas Shakespeare, The Daily Telegraph
`The Story of Pain conveys sensations with wincing precision and an admirable humanity.'
Simon Ings, New Scientist
`Ambitious and original.'
Jonathan Rée, the guardian
Jim Young, Glycosmedia
`A book that deserves wide readership.'
Church of England newspaper
`Joanna Bourke has drawn a fascinating picture of pain from a very broad perspective both in terms of time and in the sources she uses. We see how attitudes to pain have changed over the centuries and how our modern technological advances are again changing how we communicate pain and its suffering. Are we less courageous when dealing with pain than our ancestors were? asks Joanna Bourke. Astonishing what I have learnt about pain from a historian, which
will be of value in my clinical work. An absorbing and thought provoking book, a must read for pain physicians.'
Professor Joanna Zakrzewska, UCL