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Published online by Cambridge University Press:  13 October 2022

Michael Brown
Lancaster University


Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022


This book has come into being in what might fairly be described as ‘interesting times’. I began work on it shortly after meeting someone who would very soon become my wife. We moved in together, and now share everything in our lives, including our research. This blessing has made the experience of researching and writing Emotions and Surgery all the more joyous. But there have been challenges too. Somewhat ironically, the writing of Chapter 5 coincided with my first ever experience of surgery under general anaesthetic. While this is not something I would care to repeat, I would like to thank the staff at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, particularly my surgeon, Aman Sethi, and my anaesthetist, Rich Kaye, for facilitating this enlightening perspective on surgery and emotion without my having to endure the pain, suffering, and anxiety that so many of those whose stories are featured in this book sadly did. To add to this, a not inconsiderable proportion of Emotions and Surgery has been written during the COVID-19 pandemic. Even as I type this, things are by no means over, and we face continued uncertainty about the duration and future severity of the pandemic. It might seem insensitive to even mention the relatively minor personal inconveniences caused by COVID-19 when so many people have lost their lives. In any case, my research was not as badly impacted as it might have been, largely because much of the relevant archival material had been compiled and processed before March 2020. Nonetheless, the anxieties produced by the pandemic, and the limitations it imposed, are baked into this book, albeit in ways so subtle and inconsequential that I hope no one will notice. Indeed, if anything, Emotions and Surgery and my research more generally have provided a valuable emotional and intellectual refuge from the frequently depressing world of politics and global affairs over the last five or so years.

As regards the genesis of this book, my first, and deepest, debt of gratitude is to the Wellcome Trust, which funded my Investigator Award project, Surgery & Emotion (108667/Z/15/Z). I am honoured that the Trust thought highly enough of my research plans to fund me, initially for four years, subsequently for five. Its support has provided me with an invaluable opportunity to undertake the research that I wanted to pursue and, ultimately, to write this book. Its incredibly generous Open Access funding scheme also means that Emotions and Surgery, and all the other research outputs from the project, are available for anyone to read, free of charge; this is an incalculable privilege. But the Trust did not just fund me. One of the joys of being Principal Investigator on the Surgery & Emotion project has been working with an incredibly talented and personable team on a range of activities, from policy and publications to public engagement. I would like to thank Agnes Arnold-Forster, James Kennaway, Alison Moulds, David Saunders, and Lauren Ryall-Waite for all their hard work on the project and for making the last few years as enjoyable as they have been. It has been a pleasure to work with you all, and wonderful to see you go on to such great things.

For the last decade and more, I have had the great privilege of being based in what is currently the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Roehampton. Roehampton has been my academic home since before my first book was published and it is a pleasure to reflect on how much I have flourished there. While I was undertaking the initial research for the Surgery & Emotion project, I was less involved in the day-to-day activities of the School than before. Nonetheless, I always felt deeply connected to the School and proud to fly the flag for Roehampton at the various events I organised and participated in. I have come to resume my teaching and leadership duties at a difficult time for the sector in general, and the School in particular. However, I believe that there is no finer place in the country to teach and learn history, nor do I believe that anyone could be as blessed as I am with such friendly, supportive, capable, and committed colleagues, or such curious, engaged, and resourceful students.

A book like Emotions and Surgery, which draws heavily upon archival sources, would not have been possible were it not for the tireless work of librarians and archivists in accessioning, maintaining, and making accessible the requisite research materials. I am therefore hugely grateful to staff at a number of different libraries and archives, including the University of Roehampton Library, the British Library, the National Archives, the Wellcome Library, the National Library of Scotland, and the Library and Archive of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh. However, my greatest single vote of thanks must go to the staff of the Library of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, who, for several months in a row, handled my incessant requests for material with unceasing professionalism, efficiency, and good grace. I hope this book has done justice to the materials you work so hard to preserve for posterity.

I enjoy the great fortune of being part of a wider historical research community, and to count among my friends and colleagues those whose opinions and insights I value highly. Due to the pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic on everyone’s workloads, I have been less inclined to pass my work to already overburdened colleagues than might otherwise have been the case. However, I would like to thank those who have been kind enough to read all, or parts, of Emotions and Surgery before publication. These include Joanne Begiato, Ian Burney, John Collins, James Kennaway, Allister Neher, and Matthew Roberts. I would also like to thank the two anonymous reviewers of the initial proposal, and the sole reviewer of the final manuscript, for the remarkable speed, depth, and generosity of their readings. Beyond those who have read the manuscript, I would like to thank those colleagues and friends with whom I have discussed the project over the years, and who attended the various seminars and lectures I have given about my research. Your questions, comments, and reflections have helped to shape my thinking in profound ways. There are too many of you to name and it would be futile of me to try and recall the myriad influences on my work. However, I am especially grateful for the many stimulating and provocative conversations I have had with Chris Lawrence, my mentor from my days as a master’s student and, in more recent years, a dear friend. My thoughts are with you and Jan in difficult times.

I am so glad that Emotions and Surgery has found its home at Cambridge University Press, and special thanks must go to the senior commissioning editor for the history of science and medicine, Lucy Rhymer. Lucy has been incredibly supportive of this book ever since I first pitched the idea for it at the Society for the Social History of Medicine annual conference at Liverpool in 2018. Together with Emily Plater and Natasha Whelan, she has eased its journey to production with consummate professionalism.

Writing a book, as anyone who has done it knows, requires emotional as much as academic resources. In this sense I am enormously fortunate to enjoy the love, support, and encouragement of my family. Thanks go to my brother, Andrew, and his family, and to my parents, Monika and Stephen. They have been my inspiration throughout life: intelligent, perceptive, generous, and unstintingly kind. They have supported me with unwavering enthusiasm throughout my career in academia, consoling me in difficult times and celebrating my achievements with love and pride. I only hope I can live up to their example.

Finally, I must acknowledge the incalculable emotional debt that I owe to my wife, Joanne, and my stepson, Gabriel. It was in 2015, when I was awarded the grant that led to this book, that I first met Joanne. I have many cherished memories of those early months, not the least of which involves the two of us, after my funding interview with the Wellcome Trust, sitting in the sunshine outside the Jeremy Bentham pub, little knowing what would follow or where it would lead. It is astonishing to me that so much life can be crammed into the time it takes to write a book. But so it has been. In those six years, Gabriel has grown from a boy into a man, and our life as a family has blossomed. Joanne is not only my friend, my lover, and my confidante, but also my editor, my critic, and my intellectual guide to the history of emotions. Anyone who has read our respective works will be able to trace the story of our relationship through our acknowledgements. I can only beg their indulgence on this occasion and promise that the next book we write will be together and, as such, we will have to think of someone else to dedicate it to. Until that time, this book, as with everything else I have, is for her.

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