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Passions and Tempers: A History of the Humours

The humours - blood, phlegm, black bile, and choler - were substances thought to flow within the body and determine a person´s health, mood, and character. For example, an excess of black bile was considered a cause of melancholy. Humours remained an inexact but powerful explanation for centuries, surviving scientific changes, and offering clarity to physicians.

This one-of-a-kind book follows the fate of these variable fluids from their Western origin in ancient Greece to their present day versions, tracing their persistence through medical guidebooks of the past to current health fads, from the testimonies of medical theories to the theories of scientists, physicians, and philosophers. By intertwining the histories of medicine, science, psychology, and philosophy, Noga Arikha revisits and revises how we think about all aspects of our physical, mental, and emotional selves. (From front flap.)

Published in the US by Ecco (Harper/Collins) and in Italy by Bompiani. Read the reviews or take a humoural personality test on the book’s website. Listen to a discussion about “The Four Humours” on Melvyn Bragg’s In Our Time program on BBC Radio 4. Watch the author’s Talk@Google about the book.

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Napoleon and the Rebel: A Story of Brotherhood, Passion, and Power

Written with husband Marcello Simonetta and published in 2011, in the US/UK by Palgrave Macmillan and in Italy by Bompiani, this is the first biography in English of Lucien, the most talented of the Bonaparte brothers, a man who gave up his political career for the sake of his ideals - and a woman. Read the review in the New York Review of Books here.