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Week 3: The Humoral Body in the West

Lecturer: Claudia Stein

The questions 'what is biological life', and 'how does the human body function' are central to the practice and theory of medicine. The answers to these important questions have changed dramatically throughout history. This lecture focuses on important and influential systems of scientific and medical thought – medieval and Renaissance humoural theory, seventeenth-century mechanism, and eighteenth-century vitalism and tissue doctrine. The aim of the lecture is to understand these systems not as products of progressive scientific ‘discoveries’ but as individual expressions of specific historical and socio-cultural environments.


Discussion/Essay Questions

  • 'The humoral body was based on a holistic understanding of the body'. Discuss.
  • Were early modern understandings of the body unscientific?
  • How did early modern contemporaries explain disease?

Required Readings:

  • Nancy Siraisi, Medieval and Early Modern Medicine, Chapter 4 and Chapter 5, pp. 78-152. E-book

You can find this on the Warwick Library website here (the entry for the e-book is right below the entry for the hard-copy book): http://encore.lib.warwick.ac.uk/iii/encore/record/C__Rb2667760__Snancy%20siraisi__P0%2C8__Orightresult__U__X2?lang=eng&suite=cobalt
Once you are on this page, just click the link marked 'Connect to ACLS e-book'


Further Readings:


Arikha, Noga, Passions and Tempers. A History of the Humours (New York: HarperCollins, 2007)

Brown, T. M., ‘From Mechanism to Vitalism in Eighteenth Century English Physiology’, Journal of the History of Biology 7 (1974), 179-216. Springer Online Journal Archives

Bynum, William F., ‘Nosology’, in W.F. Bynum and Roy Porter, eds, Companion of Encyclopedia of the History of Medicine, vol. 1 (London, 1993), 335-356.

Bynum, W.F. et al. eds, The Western Medical Tradition 1800-2000 (Cambridge, 2006).

Brockliss, Laurence and Jones, Colin, The Medical World of Early Modern France (Oxford, 1997).

Cimino, Guido, Duchesneau, François (eds.), Vitalism: from Haller to the Cell Theory. Proceedings of the Zaragoza Symposium, XIVth International Congress of History of Science 22-29 August 1993 (Florence, 1997).

Conrad, Lawrence L., The Western Medical Tradition, 800 BC to AD 1800 (Cambridge 1995).

Coleman, William, Biology in the Nineteenth Century: Problems of Form, Function and Transformation (New York 1971) NB: good on tissue stuff.

Peter Dear, Revolutionizing the Sciences. European Knowledge and Its Ambitions, 1500-1700 (Princeton, 2001). Note that Chapters 1 and 2 offer excellent background to the Sirasi required reading. ‘Chapter 1: What was Worth Knowing in 1500’; ‘Chapter 2: Humanism and Ancient Wisdom: How to learn Things in the Sixteenth Century’; ‘Chapter 5: Mechanism: Descartes Builds a Universe’.

Duchesneau, François, ' Vitalism in late Eighteenth-century Physiology: the Cases of Barthez, Blumenbach and John Hunter’, in William Hunter and the Eighteenth-Century Medical World (Cambridge: 1985), 259-296.

Duden, Barbara, Women Beneath the Skin: A Doctor’s Patients’ in the Eighteenth- Century Germany (Cambridge, 1991); Introduction.

Foucault, Michel, The Birth of the Clinic: an Archaeology of the Medical Perception (New York, 1975).

Haigh, Elizabeth, Xavier Bichat and the Medical Theory of the Eighteenth-Century (London, 1984).

Lesch, John E., Science and Medicine in France: The emergence of the Experimental physiology, 1790-1855 (Cambridge, 1984).

Lindemann, Mary, Health and Healing in the Eighteenth-Century Germany (Baltimore, 1996).

Lindemann, Mary, Medicine and Society in Early Modern Europe (Cambridge, 1999).

Maulitz, Russell C., ‘The Pathological Tradition’, in W.F. Bynum and Roy Porter, Companion Encyclopedia of the History of Medicine, vol. 1 (London, 1993), pp 169-191.

Maulitz, Russell C ‘Framing Disease in the Paris Hospital’, Annals of Science 47 (1990): 127-37. e-journal

Martin, Julian, ‘Sauvages Nosology: Medical Enlightenment in Montpellier’, in Andrew Cunningham and Roger French, eds, The Medical Enlightenment of the Eighteenth Century (Cambridge, 1990), pp. 111-137.

Nutton, Vivian, ‘Humoralism’, in W.F. Bynum and Roy Porter, eds, Companion Encyclopedia of the History of Medicine, vol. 1 (London, 1993), pp. 281-291

Porter, Roy, The Greatest Benefit to Mankind: A Medical History of Humanity (New York, 1998).

Rather, L.J., ‘The 'Six Things Non-Natural,' Clio Medica, 3 (1968): 337-347. Available from Dr Stein.

Reill, Peter Hanns, Vitalizing Nature in the Enlightenment (Chicago, 2005).

Reill, Peter Hanns, ‘Eighteenth-Century Uses of Vitalism in Constructing the Human Sciences’, in Denis R. Alexander and Ronald L. Numbers, eds, Biology and Ideology from Descartes to Dawkins (Chicago, 2010). E-book

Roe, Shirley A., ‘Eighteenth-Century Uses of Vitalism in Constructing the Human Sciences’, in Denis R. Alexander and Ronald L. Numbers, eds., Biology and Ideology from Descartes to Dawkins (Chicago, 2010). E-book

Rey, Roselyn, ‘Vitalism, Disease and Society’, in Roy Porter, ed. Medicine in the Enlightenment (Amsterdam, 1993), pp. 274-288.

Wear, Andrew, Knowledge and Practice in English Medicine, 1550-1680 (Cambridge, 2000).

Williams, Elizabeth A., A Cultural History of Medical Vitalism in Enlightenment Montpellier (Aldershot, 2003).