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Medicine and the Enlightenment (Roberta Bivins)

October 9 H3.30 1 pm -3 pm

This week, we will explore the texture, structures and experiences of illness and its treatment in the eighteenth century through a range of historical and interdisciplinary approaches. As you read, you will begin to identify recurring themes and debates in the historiography: questions about the roles of the state and of individual healers, patients and consumers; tensions between reason and empiricism as the basis of medical knowledge; claims about 'the rise (or not) of science' and the perhaps surprising globalism of medicine and medical knowledge in this period. Be prepared to discuss these (and any other) themes, and in particular to talk about the ways in which the historiographical approach taken might shape the evidence explored and conclusions drawn about this crucial moment in the history of medicine.

Required Readings

Please read Weisz and Foucault, below, and any three other articles from the list, making sure that you include more than one geographical site, and more than one disciplinary approach among your choices. All articles are available either on Project Muse or JSTOR or from an e-journal.

*George Weisz, "Reconstructing Paris Medicine." Bulletin of the History of Medicine75, no. 1 (2001): 105-119.

*MIchel Foucault, Birth of the Clinic (various editions), chapter 4 and 5.



Marco Bresadola, "A Physician and a Man of Science: Patients, Physicians, and Diseases in Marcello Malpighi's Medical Practice." Bulletin of the History of Medicine 85, no. 2 (2011): 193-221.

Constantine George Caffentzis, "Medical Metaphors and Monetary Strategies in the Political Economy of Locke and Berkeley." History of Political Economy 35, no. 5 (2003): 204-233.

Mercy Cannon, "Hygienic Motherhood: Domestic Medicine and Eliza Fenwick’s Secresy." Eighteenth Century Fiction 20, no. 4 (2008): 535-561.

Pratik Chakrabarti, ""Neither of meate nor drinke, but what the Doctor alloweth": Medicine amidst War and Commerce in Eighteenth-Century Madras." Bulletin of the History of Medicine 80, no. 1 (2006): 1-38.

Wendy D. Churchill, ‘The Medical Practice of the Sexed Body: Women, Men, and Disease in Britain, circa 1600–1740’, Social History of Medicine (2005) 18(1): 3-22 doi:10.1093/sochis/hki006

Glen Colburn, ""Struggling Manfully" through Henry Fielding's Amelia: Hysteria, Medicine, and the Novel in Eighteenth-Century England." Studies in Eighteenth Century Culture 26, no. 1 (1997): 87-123.

Catherine Crawford, ‘Patients' Rights and the Law of Contract in Eighteenth-Century England’, Social History of Medicine (2000) 13(3): 381-410 doi:10.1093/shm/13.3.381

Helen M Dingwall, ‘“To be Insert in the Mercury”: Medical Practitioners and the Press in Eighteenth–Century Edinburgh’, Social History of Medicine (2000) 13(1): 23-44 doi:10.1093/shm/13.1.23

Benjamin A. Elman, "Sinophiles and Sinophobes in Tokugawa Japan: Politics, Classicism, and Medicine During the Eighteenth Century." East Asian Science, Technology and Society: an International Journal 2, no. 1 (2008): 93-121.

Lisa Forman Cody, ""No Cure, No Money," or the Invisible Hand of Quackery: The Language of Commerce, Credit, and Cash in Eighteenth-Century British Medical Advertisements." Studies in Eighteenth Century Culture 28, no. 1 (1999): 103-130

Lucia Dacome, "Resurrecting by Numbers in Eighteenth-Century England." Past & Present 193, no. 1 (2006): 73-110.

Nicholas Jewson, “The Disappearance of the Sick Man from Medical Cosmology”, Sociology 10 (1976): 225-44.

Clark Lawlor and Akihito Suzuki, "The Disease of the Self: Representing Consumption, 1700-1830." Bulletin of the History of Medicine 74, no. 3 (2000): 458-494.

Alexandra M. Lord, ""The Great Arcana of the Deity": Menstruation and Menstrual Disorders in Eighteenth-Century British Medical Thought." Bulletin of the History of Medicine 73, no. 1 (1999): 38-63.

Sean M Quinlan, "Inheriting Vice, Acquiring Virtue: Hereditary Disease and Moral Hygiene in the Medicine of the French Enlightenment." Bulletin of the History of Medicine 80, no. 4 (2006): 649-675.

Philip Rieder and Micheline Louis-Courvoisier, "Enlightened Physicians: Setting Out on an Elite Academic Career in the Second Half of the Eighteenth Century." Bulletin of the History of Medicine 84, no. 4 (2010): 578-606.

Martha K. Robinson, "New Worlds, New Medicines: Indian Remedies and English Medicine in Early America." Early American Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal 3, no. 1 (2005): 94-110.

Steven Shapin, "Trusting George Cheyne: Scientific Expertise, Common Sense, and Moral Authority in Early Eighteenth-Century Dietetic Medicine." Bulletin of the History of Medicine 77, no. 2 (2003): 263-297

Kevin P. Siena, "The "Foul Disease" and Privacy: The Effects of Venereal Disease and Patient Demand on the Medical Marketplace in Early Modern London." Bulletin of the History of Medicine 75, no. 2 (2001): 199-224.

Lisa Wynne Smith, " ‘An Account of an Unaccountable Distemper’: The Experience of Pain in Early Eighteenth-Century England and France." Eighteenth-Century Studies 41, no. 4 (2008): 459-480.

Steven W. Thomas, "Doctoring Ideology: James Grainger's The Sugar Cane and the Bodies of Empire." Early American Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal 4, no. 1 (2006): 78-111.

Thomas F.Tierney, "Anatomy and Governmentality: A Foucauldian Perspective on Death and Medicine in Modernity." Theory & Event 2, no. 1 (1998)

Valerie Traub, "The Nature of Norms in Early Modern England: Anatomy, Cartography, King Lear." South Central Review 26, no. 1 (2009): 42-81.

Megan Vaughan, ‘Slavery, Smallpox, and Revolution: 1792 in Île de France (Mauritius)’, Social History of Medicine (2000) 13(3): 411-428 doi:10.1093/shm/13.3.411

Wayne Wild, "Doctor-Patient Correspondence in Eighteenth-Century Britain: A Change in Rhetoric and Relationship." Studies in Eighteenth Century Culture 29, no. 1 (2000): 47-64.

Elizabeth A. Williams, "Medicine in the Civic Life of Eighteenth-Century Montpellier." Bulletin of the History of Medicine 70, no. 2 (1996): 205-232.

Alun Withey, ""Persons That Live Remote from London": Apothecaries and the Medical Marketplace in Seventeenth-and Eighteenth-Century Wales." Bulletin of the History of Medicine 85, no. 2 (2011): 222-247.

Background Reading (just a tiny sample of the riches out there!)

Iris Bruijn Ship’s Surgeons of the Dutch East India Company: Commerce and the Progress of Medicine in the Eighteenth Century (Leiden: Leiden University Press, 2009)

Andrew Cunningham, The Anatomist Anatomis'd: An Experimental Discipline In Enlightenment Europe, (Farnham: Ashgate, 2010).

T Gelfand, Professionalizing Modern Medicine: Paris Surgeons and Medical Science and Institutions in the Eighteenth Century (London: Greenwood Press, 1980)

Tony Halliday, The Temperamental Nude: Class, Medicine and Representation in Eighteenth-Century France (Oxford: Voltaire Foundation, 2010)

Caroline Hannaway and Ann F. La Berge, eds, Constructing Paris Medicine (Amsterdam: Editions Rodopi, 1998).

Jürgen Helm and Renate Wilson, eds, Medical Theory and Therapeutic Practice in the Eighteenth Century: A Transatlantic Perspective (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2008).

Susan C. Lawrence, Charitable Knowledge: Hospital Pupils and Practitioners in Eighteenth-Century London (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996).

Mary Lindemann, Health and Healing in Eighteenth-Century Germany (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996).

Dorothy Porter and Roy Porter, Patient's Progress: doctors and doctoring in eighteenth-century England (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1989).

Roy Porter, Bodies politic: disease, death and doctors in Britain, 1650-1900 (London: Reaktion, 2001; Ithaca NY: Cornell University Press, 2001).

Roy Porter (ed.), Patients and practitioners: lay perceptions of medicine in pre-industrial society (Cambridge & New York: Cambridge University Press, 1985).

Roy Porter (ed.), Medicine in the Enlightenment (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1995)

George S Rousseau, Roy Porter (eds). The ferment of knowledge: studies in the historiography of eighteenth-century science (Cambridge & New York: Cambridge University Press, 1980.

Londa Schiebinger, Plants and Empire: Colonial Bioprospecting in the Atlantic World, (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press. 2004).

Londa Schiebinger, Nature's Body: Gender in the Making of Modern Science (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2004).

Londa Schiebinger, The Mind Has No Sex? Women in the Origins of Modern Science, (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1989).

Anne C. Vila, Enlightenment and Pathology: Sensibility in the Literature and Medicine of Eighteenth-Century France (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998).

Karol K. Weaver, Medical Revolutionaries: The Enslaved Healers of Eighteenth-Century Saint Domingue (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2006). **Read with a grain of salt – the book’s research is fine, but very tightly welded to a premise the weight of which it cannot fully support).

Wayne Wild, Medicine-by-Post: The Changing Voice of Illness in Eighteenth-Century British Consultation Letters and Literature (Amsterdam: Editions Rodopi, 2006).

Renate Wilson, Pious Traders in Medicine: A German Pharmaceutical Network in Eighteenth-Century North America(University Park, Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania State University Press, 2000).

On quantification:

One of the most striking developments in all European states during the period of the so-called Enlightenment is the emergence of medicine in the service of the state. This phenomenon is part of a new technique of power which Michel Foucault labelled ‘biopower’. The term refers to the practice of modern states and their regulation of their subjects through ‘an explosion of numerous and diverse techniques for achieving the subjugations of bodies and the control of populations’. In order to provide control medicine developed new methods and practices, which targeted both, the individual and the population as a whole. Below is a set of readings specifically targeting the emergence and role of medical statistics -- they (and, indeed, Foucault) may be of particular use to you as you think about your QRS essays later this year.


  • Foucault, Michel, ‘The Politics of Health in the Eighteenth Century’, In Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings 1972-1977 ed. By Colin Gordon (New York, 1980), pp. 166-18.
  • Porter, Theodore, ‘ Medical Quantification: Science, Regulation, and the State, in Body Counts: Medical Quantification in Historical & Sociological Perspective, ed. by Jorland, Gerald/Annick Opinal/George Weisz (Montreal, 2005), pp. 394-401.
  • Rusnock, Andrea A., Vital Accounts: Quantifying Health and Population in  Eighteenth-Century England and France (Cambridge, 2002), Chapter 1-3, pp. 1-88.


Further Readings

  • Blum, Carol, Strength in Numbers: Population, Reproduction, and Power in Eighteenth –Century France (Baltimore, 2002).
  • Cassedy, James H., ‘Medicine and the Rise of Statistics’, in Medicine in Seventeenth- Century England, ed. by Allen G. Debus (Berkeley, 1974), pp. 283-312
  • Carroll, Patrick E., ‘Medical Police and the History of Public Health’, Medical History 46 (2002): 461-493
  • Connor, R. E., ‘Can You Apply Arithmetick (sic) to Everything?: Moll Flanders,William Petty, and Social Accounting’, Studies in Eighteenth Century Culture 27 (1998): 169-94.
  • Cohen, Patricia Cline, ‘Death and Taxes: The Domain of Numbers in Eighteenth- Century Popular Culture, in Science and Technology in the Eighteenth Century ed. by S. Cutcliffe, pp. 51-69.
  •  Clark, Geoffrey, Betting on Lives: The Culture of Life Insurance, 1695-1775 (Manchester, 1999).
  • Coleman, William, Death is a Social Disease: Public Health and Political Economy in Early Industrial France (Madison, 1982).
  •  Daston, Lorraine, Classical Probability in the Enlightenment (Princeton, 1988).
  •  DeLacy, Margaret, ‘Nosology, Mortality, and Disease Theory in the Eighteenth Century’, Journal of the History of Medicine 54 (1999): 261-284.
  • Donnelly, Michael, ‘On Foucault’s Uses of the Notion of Biopower’, in Michel Foucault, Philosopher (New York, 1992).
  • Foucault, Michel, ‘The Birth of Biopolitics’; ‘Security, Territory and Population’; On the Government of Living’, in Paul Rabinow (ed.), The Essential Works of Foucault, 1954-1984, vol. 1: Ethics: Subjectivity and Truth (New York, 1997), pp. 51-86.
  •  Gillispie, Charles, ‘Probability and Politics: Laplace, Condorcet, and Turgot’, Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 116 (1972): 1-20.
  • Glass, D.V., Numbering the People: The Eighteenth-Century Population Controversy and the Development of Census and Vital Statistics in Britain (London, 1973).
  • Hacking, Ian, ‘Biopower and the Avalanche of Printed Numbers’, Humanities in Society 2 (1982): 279-295.
  • Hardy, Anne/Magnello Eileen (eds), The Road to Medical Statistics (Amsterdam, 2002).
  • Hanley, Sarah, ‘Engendering the State: Family Formation and State Building in Early Modern France’, French Historical Studies, 16, 1 (1989): 4-27.
  •  Hull, Isable V., Sexuality, State and Civil Society in Germany, 1700-1815 (Ithaca, 1996).
  •  Jorland, Gerald/Annick Opinal/George Weisz (eds.), Body Counts: Medical Quantification in Historical & Sociological Perspective (Montreal, 2005).
  • Lecuyer, Bernard-Pierre, ‘The Statistisian’s Role in Society: the Institutional Establishment of Statistics in France’, Minerva 25 (1987), 277-33.
  • Outram, Dorinda, Science and the Enlightenment: God’s Order and Man’s Understanding’, in: ibid., The Enlightenment, 2nd ed. (Cambridge, 2005).
  • Overbeek, J., History of Population Theories (Rotterdam, 1974).
  •  Petersen, Alan/Bunton, Robin (eds.), Foucault, Health and Medicine (London, 1997).
  • Porter, Dorothy, Health, Civilization and State (London, 1999).
  •  Porter, Theodore, Trust in Numbers: The Pursuit of Objectivity in Science and Public Life (Princeton, 1986).
  •  Rosen, George (1953), ‘Cameralism and the concept of medical police’, Bulletin of the History of Medicine, 27 (1953): 21-42


  • Stigler, Stephen, M., The History of Statistics – The Measurement of Uncertainty before 1900 (Cambridge (Mass., 1986).
  • Woolf, Stuart J., ‘Towards the History of the Origins of Statistics: France, 1789- 1815’, In Jean-Claude Perrot and Stuart J. Woolfe (eds.), State and Society in France, 1789-1815 (Cambridge, 1981).