In ths work, Roy Porter takes a critical look at representations of the body in death, disease and health, and at images of the healing arts in Britain from the mid-17th to the 20th century. Porter's key assumptions are that the human body is the chief signifier and communicator of all manner of meanings - religious, moral, political and medical - and that pre-scientific medicine was an art which depended heavily on ritual, rhetoric and theatre. Porter argues that great symbolic weight was attached to contrasting conceptions of the healthy and diseased body, and that such ideas were mapped onto antithetical notions of the good and the bad, the beautiful and the ugly. With these images in mind, he explores aspects of being ill alongside the practice of medicine, paying special attention to self-presentations by physicians, surgeons and quacks, and to changes in practitioners' public identities over time. Porter also examines the wider symbolic meanings of disease and doctoring and the "body politic". The book features outrageous and amusing anecdotes portraying diseased bodies and medical practitioners alike.