Cold, hard steel

The myth of the modern surgeon

By Agnes Arnold-Forster

Cold, hard steel


  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-5662-4
  • Pages: 288
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £25.00
  • Published Date: June 2023
  • BIC Category: Modern History, History, History of Medicine, History & Archaeology, HISTORY / Social History, HISTORY / Europe / Great Britain / 20th Century, MEDICAL / History, Surgery, Humanities / Social & cultural history, Medicine / History of medicine, Humanities / Postwar 20th century history, from c 1945 to c 2000
  • Series: Social Histories of Medicine


Brilliant, volatile and invariably male, the surgeon stereotype is a widespread and instantly recognisable part of western culture. Setting out to anatomise this stereotype, Cold, hard steel offers an exciting new history of modern and contemporary British surgery.

The book draws on archival materials and original interviews with surgeons, analysing them alongside a range of fictional depictions, from the Doctor in the House novels to Mills & Boon romances and the pioneering soap opera Emergency Ward 10. Presenting a unique social, cultural and emotional history, it sheds light on the development and maintenance of the surgical stereotype and explains why it has proved so enduring.

At the same time, the book explores the more candid and compassionate image of the surgeon that has begun to emerge in recent years, revealing how a series of high-profile memoirs both disrupt the surgical stereotype and simultaneously confirm it.


Introduction: Sir Lancelot Spratt and the surgical stereotype
1 Surgeons in film, fiction, and on TV screens
2 Surgeons and their stereotypes in the new NHS
3 Surgical conduct and surgical communities
4 Gender in surgery
5 Race and ethnicity in surgery
6 Surgical time
7 Resilience and the military metaphor
Conclusion: shifting stereotypes


Agnes Arnold-Forster is a researcher in the Social Studies of Medicine Department at McGill University

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