Thomas Dodman’s book explores how nostalgia was understood in various contexts from the late seventeenth to the late nineteenth centuries. Nostalgia was not thought of as yearning for the past we know today, but rather as homesickness. Dodman’s book begins with the year 1688, when the otherwise unremarkable Alsatian physician Johannes Hofer published a medical dissertation on the topic. Not that homesickness had not existed before, but Hofer was the first to give it a proper medical name by cobbling together the Greek words for home (nostos) and pain (algos). The term, and thereby the condition, which was seen as a very serious and potentially deadly disease, quickly caught on in medical circles with professional opinion divided on whether it was a physical illness or rooted in the imagination of the patient or a mixture of both.
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Review of Thomas Dodman, What Nostalgia Was: War, Empire and the Time of a Deadly Emotion, Chicago, London: Chicago University Press, 2018, in: European Review of History https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13507486.2019.1607494