Blood is messy, dangerous, and charged with meaning. By following it as it circulates through people and institutions, Jenny Bangham explores the intimate connections between the early infrastructures of blood transfusion and the development of human genetics. Focusing on mid-twentieth-century Britain, Blood Relations connects histories of eugenics to the local politics of giving blood, showing how the exchange of blood carved out networks that made human populations into objects of medical surveillance and scientific research. Bangham reveals how biology was transformed by two world wars, how scientists have worked to define racial categories, and how the practices and rhetoric of public health made genetics into a human science. Today, genetics is a powerful authority on human health and identity, and Blood Relations helps us understand how this authority was achieved.
Introduction: Blood, Paper, and Genetics
1. Transfusion and Race in Interwar Europe
2. Reforming Human Heredity in the 1930s
3. Blood Groups at War
4. The Rhesus Controversy
5. Postwar Blood Grouping 1: The Blood Group Research Unit
6. Valuable Bodies and Rare Blood
7. Postwar Blood Grouping 2: Arthur Mourant’s National and International Networks
8. Organizing and Mapping Global Blood Groups
9. Blood Groups and the Reform of Race Science in the 1950s
10. Decoupling Transfusion and Genetics: Blood in the New Human Biology
Conclusion: Blood and Promise
"Blood Relations is a brilliant and engaging study of the science and the politics of blood. Bangham tracks the story of the practices of blood collection and analysis in Britain after 1900 in ways that vividly illuminate race science, human genetics, nationalism, and war. In her empirically rich account, blood ties together donors, clerks, serologists, geneticists, and anthropologists. The beautifully curated archival images and charts call our attention to the many kinds of labor and laborer involved in modern science. The account of the rise of human genetics is persuasive and novel, situated at the intersections of the history of science, medicine, and modernity. An important and powerful book, Blood Relations is required reading for scholars in the field, but also warmly accessible to any general reader with an interest in the moving human story of how and why blood became a medical, social, and scientific resource."
– M. Susan Lindee, University of Pennsylvania
"Bangham tells a stunningly original story: how the science of human blood groups evolved in Britain, from its uses in the transfusion services in World War II through its transformation by the 1960s into a powerful enabler of human population genetics. She exploits a rich trove of archival sources to detail the system of labeling, description, record-keeping, and analysis devised by the leaders of London's blood research centers: R. A. Fisher, Ruth Sanger, and Arthur Mourant. This is, in all, a great feast of a book."
– Daniel J. Kevles, professor emeritus of history, Yale University
"In this masterful study, Bangham sheds new light on the history of human genetics. Looking beyond eugenics, she shows how much human genetics owed to the development of blood transfusion in mid-twentieth century Britain. To tell her riveting story, she brings in a fascinating set of characters including donors, nurses, needle sharpeners, and clerks. Bangham argues convincingly that the state infrastructure put in place on the eve of World War II was essential in producing the collections of blood and data on which depended the rise of the new science."
– Bruno J. Strasser, author of Collecting Experiments: Making Big Data Biology