Health and Medicine in the Enlightenment

E. C. Spray

in The Oxford Handbook of the History of Medicine

Published in print August 2011 | ISBN: 9780199546497
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in History

 Health and Medicine in the Enlightenment

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  • Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)


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This article discusses the transformation of medicine at the very end of the century and thus represents a shift both in the training of medical practitioners and in accounts of the body. The eighteenth century has been described as a time of increasing medicalization of Western societies. Though this is usually portrayed as a growth in the power of medical practitioners over ordinary life, in practice lay people may also understand it as an increasing embrace of the medical. The eighteenth century continues to be viewed as a critical period in the history of medicine, as the century when bodies became the subject of large-scale political intervention, from centralized responses to plague epidemics or mass inoculation programmes early in the century to the growing use of mortality tables at its end. To portray these knowledge projects in all their complexity, historians still need to embrace the full implications of treating eighteenth-century medical knowledge as a political enterprise.

Keywords: medicine; eighteenth century; medical practitioners; historians; political enterprise

Article.  8767 words. 

Subjects: History ; Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)

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