Anne Summers

Anne Summers the author of Angels and Citizens: British Women as Military Nurses 1854-1914, is a curator in the British Library’s Department of Manuscripts.


Anne Summers, 25 March 1993

The creation of identity, the invention and re-invention of the self, is as emblematic of the modern era as technological invention. Of the many revolutions our species has witnessed in the last two centuries, the one which has probably contributed most to the development of the ‘plastic’ self has been the process by which, in the West, family size has been permanently reduced. This has led to a decline in the mortality and morbidity of women of child-bearing age, and an accompanying, if not necessarily consequent reduction in the restrictions on their economic, affective and intellectual activities which law and custom once justified on physiological as well as theological grounds. Widespread changes in attitudes to marriage, and to the public and private relationship between the sexes, have followed; the cultural purpose and centrality of heterosexuality is being increasingly questioned.

Doctoring the past

Anne Summers, 24 September 1992

Is there such a thing as the history of the body, and, if so, how might we study it? The idea of the body as a constant, a given, whose components and attributes must always be there to be known or discovered, seems self-evident to the medical patient, the medical practitioner, the micro-biologist of the present day. Much writing in medical history takes it for granted that our current approaches to knowing and describing the body correspond exactly to an objective reality which has been unchanging over time, and that matching the medical treatises and descriptions of past eras against this reality is an unproblematic exercise.

Gynaecological Proletarians

Anne Summers, 10 October 1991

Since the rebirth of the feminist movement in the Seventies, the theory and practice of medicine, and the role of women as patients and practitioners, have been strongly contested issues in sexual politics. Much recent feminist writing, especially in the United States, has interpreted the history of the modern medical profession as a succession of male impositions on women. The outlawing of folk (for which read female) medicine, the marginalisation of the traditional midwife, the medicalisation of childbirth, and the introduction of drastic surgical techniques for dealing with real or supposed dysfunctions of the reproductive organs, have all been characterised as examples of oppression and exploitation, inspired by greed, opportunism and, for good measure, possibly sadism and voyeurism.

Paul Flewers and Ian Beckwith write about Anglo-Catholic radicals (Letters, 9 September and 7 October). We should add to the roster the Reverend Stewart Headlam, who founded the Christian Socialist Guild of St Matthew in 1877. Two years later he formed the Church and Stage Guild, which some described as a mission to chorus girls, and he was well known as a campaigner for state education. He joined...

Against Metrics

8 November 2018

Stefan Collini asks of league tables in higher education: ‘Has a single university been willing to repudiate the whole farrago rather than trying to put the most positive spin it can on the figures?’ Birkbeck, University of London, announced on 9 October that it would withdraw from UK university rankings because the methodologies do not fairly recognise Birkbeck’s strengths or represent the college...

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