The View from a Series Editor: Introducing Christopher Crenner, Medical History

Greetings from the University of Rochester Press, where I serve as the series editor for Rochester Studies in Medical History. It’s work that I come by honestly, as a longtime fan of the press and its books. I knew about Rochester books back when I was a junior faculty member and still use many of them in teaching and research. So, in 2017, when Thomas Schlich and I considered a publisher for our edited volume, Technological Change in Modern Surgery: Historical Perspectives on Innovation, Rochester was the consensus choice. We had confidence in the quality of their durable and eye-friendly volumes. And we were eager to work with our colleague, Ted Brown, a distinguished scholar in the history of public health and the long-established editor for Rochester’s medical history series. It was a wonderful surprise, then, a couple of years later, to hear from Ted that he was planning his retirement and was inviting me to take up the leadership of the series. It was an easy decision. I had a general understanding of editorship, as the previous editor-in-chief of the Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences. As a past president of the national organization for history of medicine, I also thought immediately of the many scholars that I knew with exciting book projects in process. My only hesitation was the obvious challenge of following Ted. I knew from my own experience with Technological Change that Ted worked closely with individual authors as an insightful reader, a supportive confidante, and an advocate for excellent scholarship. I am trying to hold myself to that standard.

Former series editor Ted Brown (l.) with current editor Christopher Crenner

            Two thousand and twenty was a long year, with difficulties that fell hard on hospitals and medical centers. In my day job, I am the chair of the Department of the History and Philosophy of Medicine at the University of Kansas School of Medicine and have been caught up in this whirlwind. But alongside the novel stresses were also unanticipated pleasures. I have joined many rich discussions that tie the historical experience of disease to the ongoing trials of COVID-19. These efforts aim to provide insight for the present moment but also suggest new ways to extend our analysis of illness, healing, bodies, and disease. It is my hope that the series will support scholarship in the history of medicine that responds to this rapidly changing world.

Editorial director Sonia Kane at book display, American Association for the History of Medicine conference, 2017.

            Together with our advisory board and the press’s editorial director, Sonia Kane, I am making a special effort to work with early-career scholars toward the publication of first books. Indeed, three of the four most recent volumes in the series are from first-time book authors: Jacob Steere Williams’s The Filth Disease: Typhoid Fever and the Practices of Epidemiology in Victorian England, Justin Barr’s Of Life and Limb: Surgical Repair of the Arteries in War and Peace, 1880-1960, and Alistair Ritch’s Sickness in the Workhouse: Poor Law Medical Care in Provincial England, 1834-1914. As is evident from this list, books in the series currently cover a wide range of topics. An exciting forthcoming book, from David Cantor, details the collaboration of the Canadian and US governments in the mid-twentieth century to create an educational film on cancer research. In addition to these topics, recent books have delved into the deep historical relationship between disease burden and demographic change, the role of China in the globalization of biomedical practice, questions of race and gender in the formation of the British medical profession, and the development of nineteenth-century infectious disease surveillance, to choose just a few. On the advisory board, we enjoy an equally generous range of expertise.  The most recent to join the board is Dr. Mical Raz, who is Charles E. and Dale L. Phelps Professor in Public Policy and Health at the University of Rochester and a published author in the series. Raz has written on topics that include the history of child welfare policy, drug policy in the US, psychosurgery, and the influence of psychological theory on the weakening of the US social safety net. Three historians on the board, including Dr. Raz, are also physicians; so, we are well situated to support studies of biomedical knowledge and practice in historical context. In addition, the series also has a synergy with the press’s extensive and longstanding series in African Studies, including notable works on African environment and culture.

            The study of the history of medicine has perhaps never been more dynamic or more relevant. I invite scholars to join with our effort to make the most recent knowledge and research available to scholars, students, and other aficionados of the field. Please look over our call for manuscripts and the list of books in the series; and please reach out to Sonia or me with questions. Or even better, submit a proposal. We will be delighted to hear from you!  


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