When Lytton Strachey set out to puncture Victorian pomposity and hypocrisy in Eminent Victorians (1918), he used the life of Florence Nightingale to unpick the military bungling of the Crimean War and the humourless, driven qualities of Victorian ‘do-gooders’. A century later, however, Nightingale is still here, and her stock has risen, thanks to historical reinterpretations which have placed greater weight on her statistical work and her skilful behind-the-scenes political campaigning over half a century. Mark Bostridge’s rigorous and panoramic biography has brought this new Nightingale to a wider audience, and the Florence Nightingale Museum at St Thomas’s Hospital offers an opportunity to explore the world of Victorian health and medicine through the life of this extraordinary woman. In this talk Natasha McEnroe, director of the museum, tells us why Nightingale became so powerfully symbolic of her times, and how she still has the power to provoke controversy.
You can listen to & download the podcast using the embedded player below, or (if you prefer) you can go straight to the Sick City Project page on Soundcloud. This is the fifth in a regular series of podcasts, in which I explore the history, literature, art and science of medicine in London (and occasionally further abroad). Keep an ear out for future talks on leprosy in London and nineteenth-century wax museums.