Three decades ago, inspired by socialist traditions in British history, Roy Porter challenged historians of medicine to move beyond the outmoded top-down historiography that constructed their discipline from the perspective of practitioners and major breakthroughs, calling instead for an approach that gave a more active role to patients in medical encounters. Through the 1970s, patients were marginal players in medico-historical narratives and, employing the ideas of Michel Foucault and medical sociologists, scholars tended to consider them as passive individuals who stood in relation to active physicians. Especially in the case of ancient medicine, patients came to be seen “virtually by definition as an object, as subordinate to the pouvior medical,...

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