Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Schroeder-Lein: "THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF CIVIL WAR MEDICINE"

Below is a reprint of an earlier post, updated to reflect the recent publication of a new paperback edition.

[The Encyclopedia of Civil War Medicine by Glenna R. Schroeder-Lein (M.E. Sharpe, 2012). Softcover, illustrations, bibliography, timeline, index. Page total:456. ISBN:978-0-7656-2130-6 $34.95]


The Encyclopedia of Civil War Medicine provides the reader with an alphabetical arrangement of over 200 short articles [a complete list is available on the book's publisher webpage] dealing with a broadly inclusive array of related subjects. Historian Glenna R. Schroeder-Lein authored all the articles, covering:
...terms, diseases, wounds, treatments, notable medical personalities, medical offices, generals with notorious wounds, soldiers' aid figures and societies, medical department structure, hospital design and function, the battles with the greatest medical significance, sanitation issues, and other medically related topics.[page xiii-xiv]
Schroeder-Lein, who previously authored another work related to Civil War medicine (Confederate Hospitals on the Move: Samuel H. Stout and the Army of Tennessee, Univ. of South Carolina Press, 1994), is not a physician and her writing is directed toward the lay reader. However, that is not to say the encyclopedia is overly simplistic. Overall, her exposition strikes a good balance between providing usefully detailed medical information and facilitating ready comprehension by the general reader with no scientific background.

The book is well presented and organized. In addition to the bibliography, a short source list is included at the end of each article. A "see also" section helpfully directs the reader to related entries. The coverage is not exhaustive (it's not claimed to be so), and some topics that might reasonably merit separate treatment are typically grouped together. Mostly published source materials were consulted, although manuscript sources were used for biographical information.

Schroeder-Lein's work does contain some surprising revelations. For instance, I was initially puzzled at the absence of typhus, until it was demonstrated that the disease [a major scourge of war torn cities along with POW and concentration camps in Europe during the 20th century] was a rare, almost absent, condition afflicting the soldiers housed in Civil War military and POW encampments.

The Encyclopedia of Civil War Medicine should be a valuable resource for readers, writers, historians, and researchers. The steep price may scare away individual buyers, but academic and specialist libraries will likely give it strong consideration.

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