Life and Limb

Perspectives on the American Civil War

Edited by David Seed, Stephen C. Kenny, and Chris Williams

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ISBN: 9781781382509

Publication: June 19, 2015

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The contemporary perspectives – fiction, first-hand accounts, reportage and photographs - found in the pages of this collection give a unique insight into the experiences and suffering of those affected by the American Civil War. The essays and recollections detail some of the earliest attempts by medical professionals to understand and help the wounded, and look at how writers and poets were influenced by their own involvement as nurses, combatants and observers. So alongside the medical observations of figures such as Silas Weir Mitchell and William Keen, you’ll find memoirs of writers including Louisa May Alcott, Ambrose Bierce and Walt Whitman. By presenting the wide range of frequently traumatic experiences by writers, medical staff, and of course the often ignored common foot soldiers on both sides, this volume will complement the older emphasis on military history and will appeal to readers of the evolution of medicine, of the literature the time, of social anthropology, and of the whole complex issue of how the war was represented and debated from many different perspectives. While a century and a half of developments in medicine, social care and science mean that the level of support and technology available to amputees is now incomparable to that in the mid-nineteenth century, the insights into the lives and thoughts of those devastated by psychological traumas, complex emotions and difficulties in adjusting to life after limb loss remain just as relevant today. Phenomena explored in the book, such as ‘Phantom Limb Syndrome’, continue to be the subject of medical and academic research in the twenty-first century.

Chris Williams is Research and KE Impact Officer at the University of Liverpool.

David Seed is Professor of English at the University of Liverpool. He is the editor of (with Susan Castillo) American Travel and Empire (LUP, 2009) and author of Cinematic Fictions (LUP, 2009).

Stephen C. Kenny is Lecturer in 19th and 20th century North American History at the University of Liverpool.


A short and accessible primary source reader on the medical history of the American Civil War.
Handley-Cousins, H-Disability 

This volume should prove a very good classroom companion for teaching the Civil War’s medical history at ground level, and for understanding how the war took shape in written word and visual image, as suffering morphed into memory.
Steven M. Stowe   Social History of Medicine

The book is nicely presented and handsomely illustrated with both figures and plates. It bears similarities in form with David Seed’s earlier edited anthology on American Travellers in Liverpool (Liverpool University Press, 2008) with which local readers may already be familiar.  Life and Limb may find a welcome niche in the library of anyone with an interest in medical history and of the Civil War in particular.

A. J. Larner   Medical Historian, Issue 26

Format: Paperback

Size: 234 x 156 mm

240 Pages

ISBN: 9781781382509

Publication: June 19, 2015

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