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The History of Pain

The History of Pain

Roselyne Rey

Translated by Louise Elliott Wallace, J. A. Cadden, and S.W. Cadden

ISBN 9780674399686

Publication date: 01/12/1998

Feared by most, sought out by others, pain may manifest itself as a benevolent messenger warning of imminent danger or a repellent nemesis that undermines and incapacitates us. Throughout the ages pain has intrigued those who focus on the soul and the sacred in equal measure to those who specialize in the body and medicine.

In The History of Pain, Roselyne Rey draws on multidisciplinary sources to explore this universally shared experience. From classical antiquity to the twentieth century, she contrasts the different cultural perceptions of pain in each period, as well as the medical theories advanced to explain its mechanisms, and the various therapeutic remedies formulated to relieve those suffering from it.

This broad historical perspective, both accurate and remarkably erudite, highlights the extraordinary transformation in humanity's relationship to pain, chronicles the considerable progress made in its understanding and treatment, and explores the shadowy areas of mystery which remain to this day.


  • An intriguing analysis of the evolving influences of society and culture on pain thresholds throughout the ages.

    —New Scientist


  • Roselyne Rey was a research fellow at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in Paris, specializing in the history of medicine and the life sciences.

Book Details

  • 6 x 9 inches
  • Harvard University Press