CFP: Alternative Approaches to Health in the Long-Eighteenth Century

By Rosie Whitcombe

In his multi-volume Hygëia; Or, Essays Moral and Medical (1802), Thomas Beddoes notes the paradox that “no one knows the value of health, till it is lost” (Vol. I, Essay I, p. 83). Stretching from the 1665 outbreak of the plague through the 1850 cholera epidemic, the “long” eighteenth century witnesses an extraordinary debate over the attainment, preservation, and the very meaning of health through competing discourses and practices that give shape and influence the development of medicine, history, literature, politics, and culture well into the nineteenth century. From the perspective of health and medicine post “germ theory,” this period functions as a gateway for “thinking differently about the individual subject, health, and nature.” Indeed, even before the development of germ theory, the different understandings of disease effectively functioned as “alternative or complimentary, rather than contradictory,” since their definitions were continuously in flux1. This difference allows scholarship to chart the coexistence of multiple medical and social models of caring for the body, or even what counts as ‘health’ or ‘medicine.’ From debates between Brunonian, Hunterian, and Boerhavian conceptions of the body to indigenous and non-western practices, we invite scholarly essays that contest and complicate our understanding of the meanings, representations, …read more