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A Biography of the Stuff of Life

Lawrence Hill

It’s everywhere: from the laws of citizenship to the detection of doping in sport, from the books of the Old Testament and the acts of Macbeth to the mudbloods of Harry Potter and the vampires of Twilight. Blood fills our imagination, just as fully as it fills our veins.

In this provocative exploration of the medical and social history of blood, from ancient times to today, award-winning novelist Lawrence Hill considers blood’s scientific, cultural, psychological and political aspects. He charts how our understanding of blood has developed over the centuries, sharing a close-up view of William Harvey’s bloody dissection table at which the seventeenth-century physician shocked his peers, using a live dog to prove that blood circulates. But blood isn’t just about the body, and Hill also reveals how ideas about blood purity have spawned rules on who gets to belong to a family, who enjoys the rights of citizenship and what defines a person’s identity. As Hill powerfully and lyrically conveys, blood counts in virtually every aspect of our being that matters.

  • Publication date: June 5, 2014
  • ISBN: 9781780745466
  • RRP: £9.99
  • Pages: 320
  • Publication date: June 5, 2014
  • ISBN: 9781780745473
  • RRP: £4.99
  • Pages: 320


‘Fascinating… [Hill’s] premise – that blood divides and unties – is convincing… Hill is a compelling storyteller’


'Interesting... the topic is fascinating'

Mail on Sunday

'An agreeable canter through the myths surrounding blood, the medical history of blood, taboos around blood, and the many expressions in our language which testify to its centrality... entertaining'

Independent on Sunday

‘Hill has mined a rich vein to compile this compelling account… Fascinating and provocative’ 

Daily Mail


The Herald

'A rich and epic read... Blood is the prism through which [Hill] presents a vast human social history.'

The Times

'Passionately written and deeply informative.'

Siddhartha Mukherjee, Pulitzer-Prize winning author of The Emperor of All Maladies

'Brilliant and evocative... This is a history of life and of death, of health and sickness, of science, superstition and religion, of the very building blocks of family, ancestry and inheritance.'

Marlon James, author of The Book of Night Women

'A beautiful and erudite biography of that which courses through us all – I was totally captivated.'

James Davies, author of Cracked: Why Psychiatry is Doing More Harm Than Good

'Hill not only reveals the wisdom of our bodies, but also forces us to confront our prejudices and re-evaluate the meaning of our lives. Blood is biography at its best.'

Mark Jackson, Professor of the History of Medicine, University of Exeter

'With compelling stories from history, science and his own family, Lawrence Hill shows the physical and metaphorical value of this liquid that we all share, yet which is so often used to divide us.'

Hugh Aldersey-Williams, bestselling author of Periodic Tales

'A rich volume... Part autobiography, part medical history and part cultural reflection, Hill dissects the many meanings of blood, in all times and all cultures, including our own.'

William Bynum, Professor Emeritus of the History of Medicine, University College London

Lawrence Hill

Author page

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