Medical Consulting by Letter in France, 1665–1789: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Medical Consulting by Letter in France, 1665–1789

1st Edition

By Robert Weston


240 pages

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Ailing seventeenth- and eighteenth-century French men and women, members of their families, or their local physician or surgeon, could write to high profile physicians and surgeons seeking expert medical advice. This study, the first full-length examination of the practice of consulting by letter, provides a cohesive portrayal of some of the widespread ailments of French society in the latter part of the early modern period. It explores how and why changes occurred in the relationships between those who sought and those who provided medical advice. Previous studies of epistolary medical consulting have limited attention to the output of one or two practitioners, but this study uses the consultations of around 100 individual practitioners from the mid-seventeenth century to the time of the Revolution to give a broad picture of patients and physicians perceptions of illnesses and how they should be treated on a day-to-day basis. It makes a unique contribution to the history of medicine, as no other study has been undertaken in the consulting by letter of surgeons, as opposed to physicians. It is shown that the well-known disputation between physicians and surgeons tells only a part of the history; whereas in fact, necessity required that these two 'professions' had to work together for the patients' good.


'Weston has identified some fascinating material at an interesting period in European medicine and composed a valuable contribution to medical history.' Vesalius ’This work fits well into the popular trend of social history, demonstrating medical practice in action, rather than described in theoretical texts. One of the greatest benefits of Weston’s work is his synthesis between patient and physician perspectives. Most historical works focus either on the perspective of the professional medical worker, or the patient. Correspondence necessitates two parts, emphasizing the element of dialogue in early modern medicine. Weston allows time for both voices and demonstrates the importance of their reciprocal relationship.’ Seventeenth Century

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction; Part I Contexts: Textual, Professional and Social: Correspondence: practices and context; The dynamic medical marketplace; Relationships between medical correspondents; Knowledge, status and power: negotiating authority. Part II Body, Health and Illness: University medical knowledge in epistolary practice; Patients' perceptions of the body, health and illness; The deployment of therapies; From complaint to cure; Conclusion; Bibliography; Index.

About the Author

Robert Weston is Honorary Research Fellow at The University of Western Australia.

About the Series

The History of Medicine in Context

An interest in medicine is one of the constants that re-occurs throughout history. From the earliest times, man has sought ways to combat the myriad of diseases and ailments that afflict the human body, resulting in a number of evolving and often competing philosophies and practices whose repercussions spread far beyond the strictly medical sphere.

For more than a decade The History of Medicine in Context series has provided a unique platform for the publication of research pertaining to the study of medicine from broad social, cultural, political, religious and intellectual perspectives. Offering cutting-edge scholarship on a range of medical subjects that cross chronological, geographical and disciplinary boundaries, the series consistently challenges received views about medical history and shows how medicine has had a much more pronounced effect on western society than is often acknowledged. As medical knowledge progresses, throwing up new challenges and moral dilemmas, The History of Medicine in Context series offers the opportunity to evaluate the shifting role and practice of medicine from the long perspective, not only providing a better understanding of the past, but often an intriguing perspective on the present.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / Modern / 17th Century