Jackson, Mark 1959–

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Jackson, Mark 1959–


Born 1959. Education: B.Sc., M.B., B.S., Ph.D.


Office—University of Exeter, The Queen's Dr., Exeter, Devon EX4 4QJ, England. E-mail—[email protected].


University of Exeter, Exeter, England, professor of history and director of the Centre for Medical History; has also worked as a researcher at the Universities of Leeds and Manchester, England.


New-Born Child Murder: Women, Illegitimacy and the Courts in Eighteenth-Century England, Manchester University Press (New York, NY), 1996.

(Editor, with Dorothy Atkinson and Jan Walmsley) Forgotten Lives: Exploring the History of Learning Disability, BILD Publications (Kidderminster, Worcestershire, England), 1997.

The Borderland of Imbecility: Medicine, Society, and the Fabrication of the Feeble Mind in Late Victorian and Edwardian England, Manchester University Press (New York, NY), 2000.

(Editor and contributor) Infanticide: Historical Perspectives on Child Murder and Concealment, 1550-2000, Ashgate (Burlington, VT), 2002.

Allergy: The History of a Modern Malady, Reaktion (London, England), 2006.

(Editor) Health and the Modern Home, Routledge (New York, NY), 2008.

Contributor to professional journals and other periodicals.


Mark Jackson is a medical historian who has studied the social history of infanticide and the history of ‘feeblemindedness.’ He has also conducted research into the history of stress and of allergic diseases, such as hay fever, asthma, and eczema, in the modern world. He has written extensively about his interests in professional journals and as the author and editor of several books on these subjects. For example, Jackson explores Great Britain's treatment of people with developmental disabilities in his book The Borderland of Imbecility: Medicine, Society, and the Fabrication of the Feeble Mind in Late Victorian and Edwardian England. Specifically, the author focuses on the social policy debates in Great Britain during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries concerning people with seemingly limited mental capabilities. ‘Jackson's use of the concept ‘borderland,’ … indicates that the book's focus is not so much mental defectiveness as the emergence of a particular type of ‘deficiency’ lying somewhere between imbecility and normality,’ noted Stephen Garton in Victorian Studies. Garton went on to point out that many Victorian-era reformers were stymied by the problem of the feebleminded, who were blamed by Victorians for problems ranging from crime and prostitution to unemployment. While many of those considered feebleminded were put into institutions, including prisons, schools, and asylums, they appeared in many ways to be quite normal but did not appear to have the ability to be productive members of society who lived within the confines of the law.

All of this is familiar territory and Jackson covers it well,’ according to Garton. ‘Like others before him Jackson rightly concentrates on the rich medical discourses which created the feeble minded.’ Garton went on to note that the author ‘offers some unusual angles on the problem. In particular his examination of the use of photographs to define distinct categories of feeble mindedness offers interesting insights into practices of medical governance.’ In a review of the book on the Institute of Historical Research Web site, Peter Bartlett commended Jackson for addressing the dearth of historical analysis of developmental disability. Bartlett wrote: ‘Jackson's work is … essentially about the birth of an idea and the creation of a perceived social problem. In this it is a very good read. It is not a radical book. The traditional themes of recent medical history, including the tension between benevolence and control, the rise of confinement, the rise of the role of the doctor and the intermingled roles of professionals and laity are at the core of this book.’ Bartlett went on to call The Borderland of Imbecility ‘a highly engaging account of the interplay between medical and lay ideas in the development of the concept of feeble-mindedness."

As editor of Infanticide: Historical Perspectives on Child Murder and Concealment, 1550-2000, Jackson presents twelve papers on infanticide, looking at the phenomenon primarily from a historical perspective. Jackson's introductory paper provides an overview of infanticide with an emphasis on both the continuity of infanticide as well as how it has changed over the years. Many of the other papers focus on the eighteenth and nineteenth century, primarily on infanticide in England and Europe. One of the topics discussed by other contributors is the belief held by medical practitioners in the nineteenth century that many women who killed their children did so because they became insane at childbirth. Contributors also investigate the legal and criminal status of people who murdered infants and how British laws concerning infanticide changed. Michelle T. King, writing in the Journal of Social History, felt that Infanticide ‘is on the whole filled with solid historical research and moments of analytical sophistication."

In Allergy: The History of a Modern Malady, Jackson traces how allergies such as asthma and hay fever have gone from being a relatively rare occurrence in the upper classes to being almost epidemic-like. According to Jackson, allergies were relatively uncommon until the last half of the twentieth century. The author, noted Books & Culture contributor J. Matthew Sleeth, delves into ‘the mechanisms of allergy and the history of our thinking about the subject—how it has been variously conceptualized.’ Jackson also writes about scientific advances in the field and the scientists who made them, such as Clemens von Pirquet, a Viennese scientist in the early twentieth century who is known as the father of allergy science. It was Pirquet, for example, who discovered that the bee's sting itself is not lethal but rather that some people's immune response to the sting or venom turned out to be the culprit.

As Jackson examines why allergies began to proliferate, he writes about how the modern environment, both indoors and outdoors, has changed. The author describes modern medical care for allergies, including new and improved diagnostic methods, and the modern-day scientists who work in allergy research. In addition, Jackson examines the social, cultural, political, geographical, and economic implications of the growth of allergies. ‘This is heavy reading well worth the effort, with exhaustive references,’ concluded Tina Neville in Library Journal.



Books & Culture, September 1, 2007, J. Matthew Sleeth, ‘The Big Sneeze,’ review of Allergy: The History of a Modern Malady, p. 24.

British Medical Journal, September 23, 2006, John Henderson, review of Allergy, p. 659.

Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, April, 1997, review of New-Born Child Murder: Women, Illegitimacy and the Courts in Eighteenth-Century England, p. 1397; November, 2006, J.B. Hagen, review of Allergy, p. 516.

Community Care, January 15, 1998, Peter Gilbert, review of Forgotten Lives: Exploring the History of Learning Disability, p. 27.

JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association, May 10, 2006, Alfred I. Tauber, review of Allergy, p. 2190.

Journal of Social History, spring, 2004, Michelle T. King, review of Infanticide: Historical Perspectives on Child Murder and Concealment, 1550-2000, p. 782.

Library Journal, May 1, 2006, Tina Neville, review of Allergy, p. 113.

London Review of Books, June 22, 2006, Hugh Pennington, ‘Then Came the Hoover,’ review of Allergy, p. 15.

Nature, August 3, 2006, Peter J. Barnes, review of Allergy, p. 513.

New England Journal of Medicine, August 24, 2006, Heather L. Van Epps, review of Allergy, p. 855.

New Scientist, May 13, 2006, Adrian Barnett, review of Allergy, p. 52.

Reference & Research Book News, August, 2002, review of Infanticide, p. 128.

SciTech Book News, June, 2001, review of The Borderland of Imbecility: Medicine, Society, and the Fabrication of the Feeble Mind in Late Victorian and Edwardian England, p. 94.

Times Higher Education Supplement, November 17, 2006, Alan Malcolm, ‘The Itchy, the Scratchy and the Wheezy 20th Century,’ review of Allergy, p. 29.

Times Literary Supplement, May 18, 2007, Christopher Lawrence, ‘Pollinated,’ review of Allergy, p. 28.

Victorian Studies, spring, 2003, Stephen Garton, review of The Borderland of Imbecility, p. 575.


Institute of Historical Research,http://www.history.ac.uk/ (October 26, 2007), Peter Bartlett, review of The Borderland of Imbecility.

University of Exeter Centre for Medical History Web site,http://www.centres.ex.ac.uk/medhist/ (October 26, 2007), faculty profile of Mark Jackson.

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