‘They are called Imperfect men’: Male infertility and sexual health in early modern England.

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Scholars of early modern gender and medicine have tended to focus on the female infertility. Discussions that have included male reproductive failure have considered sexual ability and impotence, rather than infertility. Nonetheless, fathering children was important to male social standing and the fulfilment of their patriarchal roles. This article will demonstrate that male infertility was not absent from medical literature, but appeared in a variety of settings including tests for infertility, seventeenth-century handbills for treatments and surgical treatises. It will show that medical and surgical writers accepted that men could be rendered infertile, but still sexually capable, in a variety of ways. Moreover, the article will demonstrate that seventeenth-century surgeons expected male readers to be concerned about their reproductive potential and constructed a framework of efficacy based upon their ability to secure on-going fertility.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)311-332
JournalSocial History of Medicine
Issue number2
Early online date21 Dec 2014
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2016


  • infertility
  • surgery
  • early modern
  • medical history
  • sexual health


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