University of Hertfordshire

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  • 906777

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Original languageEnglish
Number of pages21
Pages (from-to)423-443
JournalHistorical Research
Journal publication dateAug 2014
Volume87
Issue237
Early online date12 Mar 2014
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2014

Abstract

Scholars examining medical practice in early modern England have often remarked upon the complexities of the relationship between male physicians and female patients. It has been noted that ideas of female modesty and concern about the potential erotic nature of contact between patients and practitioners could affect the treatment of certain disorders. This paper contributes to this on-going discussion by examining the use of pungent substances to diagnose and treat female barrenness. Diagnostic tests included in medical treatises could rely upon the woman’s ability to perceive a particular substance. These tests thus put women at the centre of the diagnosis of their disorders and allowed them to negotiate access to their reproductive bodies. Similarly medical practitioners included a range of treatments for infertility that involved the fumes of certain substances entering the womb or surrounding the body. These treatments may have allowed women, and perhaps their medical practitioners, to choose a method of remedy that did not involve the application of external lotions to the genitalia. Thus by considering the multi-sensory nature of medical treatment this paper will highlight that the diversity of remedies advocated in early modern medical texts would perhaps have allowed women to restrict access to their reproductive bodies, while still obtaining diagnosis and treatment.

Notes

This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License, CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 which permits use and distribution in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non-commercial and no modifications or adaptations are made, see https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/.

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