Histories of Heterodoxy

Roberta Bivins

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

Histories of Heterodoxy


Heterodox captures the oppositional qualities of ‘alternative’ without insisting on them and thereby ruling out complementarity. This article summarizes the history of heterodox medicine. This survey uses brief case studies to examine the emergence of a global medical marketplace and ideas from the Age of Exploration to the end of the Enlightenment. It focuses on heterodox medicine in Europe and the post-Columbian Americas because it is in these cultures that a self-identified and deliberately exclusive orthodoxy has been at the heart of medical ideology and professional development and fundamental to medical consumerism. This article then turns to the rise of explicitly ‘alternative’ systems like mesmerism and homoeopathy in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and the incorporation of some of those systems into biomedicine in the twentieth century. Finally, it looks at the recent historiography of heterodox medicine, and lays out potential directions for future scholarship.

Keywords: history; heterodox; medicine; homoeopathy; biomedicine

Article.  9454 words. 

Subjects: History ; Methods and Historiography

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