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