Skip to main content

Practitioners and Patients in Renaissance and Early Modern Europe


Module description

The main emphasis of this course will be on the practice of medicine and on the range of options available to someone in pre-industrial society to treat sickness and to maintain health. Evidence will be drawn from across Europe, but the main emphasis will be on Italy and England, two countries with very different economic, political and religious characters, but linked through English admiration for Italian models of health care.

The central aim will be to move away from the more traditional concentration on 'medicine from above' towards those new approaches in the social history of medicine. Recently emphasis has been placed on a more integrated view of the medical market-place in which the patient has taken centre stage. He or she is seen as an active rather than a passive agent, whether in seeking to treat him or herself through domestic remedies, taking the waters at thermal springs, consulting licensed and unlicensed practitioners, attending his or her local hospital or going on pilgrimages to miracle shrines.

Each class will examine one of these systems of healing though analysis of a wide range of contemporary sources in translation from the normative records of Colleges of Physicians, cases against practitioners, trials of women herbalists accused of witchcraft, collections of medical recipes to the registers of successful cures at miracle shrines.