Originally posted on Forbidden Histories:
Last Thursday I had the privilege of giving a talk in the excellent Damaging the Body lecture series, ably organised at Barts Museum of Pathology, London, by Jo Parsons and Sarah Chaney. Surrounded by hundreds of jars filled with various organs and body parts of dead people (no nibbles were served in case you’re wondering), I performed a post-mortem examination of mesmerism as a historiographical casualty during the birth of German professionalised psychology. (A comprehensive analysis is presented in my Wellcome Trust-funded study of the entanglement of psychical research and early professionalised psychology in Europe and North America, which I’m currently revising into a book manuscript).
Starting with a brief sketch of changing scientific attitudes to ‘fascination’ (mental influence at a distance) and miraculous healing from the Scientific Revolution to the Enlightenment, I noted that in popular standard accounts of mesmerism it is often ignored…
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