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The Medical Marketplace and Medical Tradition: Interfaces between Orthodox, Alternative and Folk Practice in the 19th and 20th Centuries

1 February 2008
University College Dublin

Organisers: Dr Catherine Cox (Centre for the History of Medicine in Ireland, University College Dublin) and Professor Hilary Marland

This workshop seeks to explore the relationship between ‘orthodox’ and ‘alternative’ practice in the 19th- and 20th-century medical marketplace. It will focus particularly on attitudes to traditional and folk practices and how they were approached, absorbed or confronted by medical practitioners, including doctors who had undergone a regular training and those who acquired medical knowledge through other routes. The workshop also seeks to refocus the debate on the role, vitality and complexity of the medical marketplace and its constituent elements in the modern period. Most of the emphasis to date has focused on the early modern period, yet it was in the 19th-century that doctors became increasingly aware and vocal about competition and overcrowding in some areas of the marketplace or, alternatively, a shortfall in medical assistance in others. And while opposition to the medical fringe was an important aspect of growing medical self-consciousness and the assertion of professional authority in the 19th and 20th centuries, so too for some medical practitioners was an interest and awareness of traditional approaches to medicine, as practiced by local healers and also as forms of domestic healing. Reporting upon traditional practices, for some, was seen as important not just to assert the superiority of modern medicine, but also to record a world, medical and linguistic, in danger of being lost. Several systems of healing which emerged during the 19th century, such as medical botany and hydropathy, linked both traditional approaches and practices with ‘scientific’ approaches, and as such occupied an uneasy position between orthodoxy and fringe.

Speakers will include Catherine Cox, Frank Huisman, Hilary Marland, Evert Peeters, and Carsten Timmermann.

If you are interested in being involved in the workshop and presenting a paper, please contact Catherine Cox or Hilary Marland by 15 November 2007.