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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of History, Classics and Archaeology : Postgraduate (History, Classics and Archaeology)

Postgraduate Course: Medicine, Science and Society in Late Medieval and Renaissance Italy (PGHC11331)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of History, Classics and Archaeology CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryMedieval and Renaissance history of medicine and history of science are two well-established fields of studies in the humanities. Their teaching, however, has often remained constrained within History and Philosophy of Science Departments. In recent decades the methodological contributions of social and cultural history have done much to change the field, producing much innovative research that has made the history of science and the history of medicine much more integrated within mainstream social, intellectual and cultural history. The present course aims to strengthen the current offerings in the history of medicine and the history of science in the School. It builds on recent scholarship in order to introduce students to elements of the history of science and medicine that are very relevant to the study of late medieval and Renaissance society at large. Given the substantial body of primary sources and scholarship available, this course will concentrate mostly on Italy, with occasional references to other European countries as a source of comparison.
Course description The course aims to introduce students to the history of medicine and science in Italy from the 13th to the 17th century, using methods from social, intellectual, and cultural history. We will examine how medieval and Renaissance people thought of their bodies and the natural world that surrounded them. We will explore health and healing from the perspective of the patients and of the practitioners, from learned physicians to charlatans. We will also consider the ways in which the natural world was understood and studied, and where new knowledge about nature was produced. Finally, we will examine how man and nature were rendered visually, and the changing role of pictures in the transmission of natural knowledge from the Middle Ages to the High Renaissance.

The course is structured thematically as follows:

Week 1 Introduction to the course

Part I: The Renaissance Body
Week 2 Was there a Renaissance Body?
Week 3 Case Study 1: The Plague
Week 4 Case Study 2: The French Disease

Part II: Places of Learning, Places of Practice: Medicine
Week 5 The Hospital and the University
Week 6 The Court and the Academy
Week 7 The Marketplace

Part III: Places of Learning, Places of Practice: Natural Philosophy
Week 8 What is Natural Philosophy?
Week 9 The Convent and the University
Week 10 The Court and the Academy

Part IV: The Material and Visual World of Medicine and Natural Philosophy
Week 11: Picturing 'Science'
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
Students who successfully complete the course will have acquired an advanced knowledge and understanding of key aspects of the history of medicine and science in the Late Middle Ages and the Renaissance. In particular, they will have gained an understanding of:
-- the changing views of the body and its functions in pre-modern societies;
--the cultural and social significance of disease;
--the place of medicine and medical practitioners within a large world of healing that included a wide range of religious and magical techniques;
--the variety of professional figures that occupied the fields of medicine and natural philosophy;
--the importance of different institutional settings in determining the way knowledge was produced and disseminated;
--the way pre-modern western societies constructed their world-view and their own place within the universe;
--the ability to assess primary sources by placing them in their historical context;
--the ability to contribute actively to class discussion and express ideas in a coherent and cogent fashion;
--the ability to write cogently and persuasively about an historical topic.
Reading List
Indicative bibliography (*primary sources)
J. Aberth, From the Brink of The Apocalypse: Confronting famine, war, plague, and death in the later Middle Ages (2000).
G. A. Bailey and S. Barker eds., Hope and Healing: Painting in Italy in a time of plague, 1500-1800 (2005).
*A. Benivieni, De abditis nonnullis ac mirandis morborum et sanationum causis, trans. C. Singer (1954).
B. S. Bowers, The Medieval Hospital and Medical Practice (2007).
P. J. Brown, "Belief and Ethnomedical Systems: Conceptual Tools" and "The Social Construction of Illness and the Social Production of Health: Conceptual Tools" in Brown, Understanding and Applying Medical Anthropology (1998), 108-109; 144-46.
C. (Walker) Bynum, Last Things: Death and the Apocalypse in the Middle Ages (2000).
G. Calvi, Histories of a Plague Year: The social and the imaginary in baroque Florence (1989).
A. Carmichael, Plague and The Poor in Renaissance Florence (1986).
--"Contagion Theory and Contagion Practice in Fifteenth-Century Milan", Renaissance Quarterly 44 (1991), 213-256.
C. Cipolla, Cristofano and the Plague: A Study in the History of Public Health in the Age of Galileo (1973).
-- Faith, Reason, and the Plague in Seventeenth-Century Tuscany (1981).
-- Fighting the plague in seventeenth-century Italy (1981).
Cohn, S. K. The Black Death Transformed: Disease and Culture in Early Renaissance Europe (2002).
--Cultures of Plague: Medical Thinking at the end of the Renaissance (2010).
D. M. D'Andrea, Civic Christianity in Renaissance Italy: the Hospital of Treviso, 1400-1530 (2007).
A. G. Debus, Man and Nature in the Renaissance (1978).
*P. Elmer and O. P. Grell, Health, disease and society in Europe, 1500-1800 (2004).
*M. Ficino, Three Books on Life, trans. C. Caske and J. R. Clark (1989).
P. Findlen, Possessing Nature: Museums, collecting, and scientific culture in early modern Italy (1994).
A. Foa, "The New and the Old: The Spread of Syphilis (1494-1530)" in E. Muir and G. Ruggiero eds., Sex and Gender in Historical Perspective (1990), 26-45.
D. Freedberg, The Eye of the Lynx: Galieo, his friends, and the beginning of modern natural history (2002).
R. French, Jon Arrizabalaga, Andrew Cunningham, and Luis García- Ballester, eds. Medicine from the Black Death to the French Disease (1998).
R. French and Jon Arrizabalaga, The Great Pox: The French Disease in Renaissance Europe (1997).
L. Garcìa Ballester ed., Practical Medicine from Salerno to the Black Death (1994).
P. Galison and C. Jones, Picturing Science, Producing Art (1998).
D. Gentilcore, From Bishop to Witch: the system of the sacred in early modern Terra d'Otranto (1992).
--Healers and healing in early modern Italy (1998).
-- Medical Charlatanism in Early Modern Italy (2006).
-- "Martino Grimaldi and the merchant-charlatans of early modern Italy", in B. Blondé, P. Stabel, J. Stobart and I. Van Damme eds. Buyers, Sellers and Salesmanship in Medieval and Early Modern Europe (2006).
J. A. Givens, K. Reeds and A. Touwaide eds., Visualizing Medieval Medicine and Natural History, 1250-1550 (2006).
A. Grafton, Cardano's Cosmos: The Worlds and Works of a Renaissance Astrologer (1999).
A. Grafton and W. Newman eds., Secrets of Nature: Astrology and Alchemy in Early Modern Europe (2001).
*E. Grant, A Source Book in Medieval Science (1974).
M. H. Green, Women's Healthcare in the Medieval West: Texts and Contexts (2000).
*-- The Trotula: A Medieval Compendium of Women's Medicine (2002).
-- Making Women's Medicine Masculine: The Rise of Male Authority in Pre-Modern Gynecology (2008).
J. Henderson, The Renaissance Hospital: Healing the body and healing the soul (2006).
P. Horden ed., Music as Medicine: The History of Music Therapy since Antiquity (2000).
*R. Horrox, ed. and transl. The Black Death (1997) (available from Medieval Sourcesonline from Manchester University Press:
N. Jardine and M. Frasca-Spada eds., Books and the Sciences in History (2000).
M. Lindemann, Medicine and Society in Early Modern Europe (1999).
*Hildegard of Bingen, The Letters of Hildegard von Bingen (2004).
A. L. Martin, Plague? Jesuit Accounts of Epidemic Disease in the Sixteenth Century (1996).
M. McVaugh, Medicine Before the Plague: practitioners and their patients in the Crown of Aragon, 1285-1345 (1993).
I. Metzler, Disability in Medieval Europe: Thinking about physical impairment during the high Middle Ages, c. 1100-1400 (2006).
W. Naphy, Plagues, Poisons, and Potions: Plague-spreading conspirancies in the Western Alps, c. 1530-1640 (2002).
W. Naphy and A. Spicer, The Black Death: a history of plagues, 1345-1730 (2000).
V. Nutton, Pestilential Complexities: understanding medieval plague (2008).
R. Palmer, "The Church, Leprosy, and the Plague in Medieval and Early Modern Europe", Studies in Church History 19 (1982), 79-99.
K. Park, "The Criminal and the Saintly Body: Autopsy and Dissection in Renaissance Italy", Renaissance Quarterly 47 (1994), 1-33.
--"The Life of the Corpse: Division and Dissection in Late Medieval Europe", Journal of the History of Medicine 50 (1995), 111-132.
--"Was There a Renaissance Body?" in Walter Kaiser and Michael Rocke, eds., The Italian Renaissance in the Twentieth Century = I Tatti Studies, vol. 19, Florence: Olschki 2002, 21-35.
--Secrets of Women: Gender, Generation, and the Origins of Human Dissection (2006).
K. Park and J. Henderson, " 'The First Hospital among Christians': The Ospedale di Santa Maria Nuova in Early Sixteenth-Century Florence" Medical History 35 (1992), 164-188.
G. Pomata, Contracting a Cure: Patients, Healers, and the Law in Early Modern Bologna (1998).
K. Siena, Sins of the Flesh: responding to sexual disease in early modern Europe (2005).
N. G. Siraisi, Taddeo Alderotti and his Pupils: two generations of Italian medical learning (1981).
-- Avicenna in Renaissance Italy. The Canon and Medical Teaching in Italian Universities after 1500 (1987).
-- Medieval and Early Renaissance Medicine: An Introduction to Knowledge and Practice (1990).
-- The Clock and the Mirror: Girolamo Cardano and Renaissance medicine (1997).
-- Medicine and the Italian universities, 1250-1600 (2001).
-- History, Medicine, and the Traditions of Renaissance Learning (2007).
N. Siraisi and A. Grafton eds., Natural Particulars: Nature and the disciplines in Renaissance Europe (1999).
T. Ranger and P. Slack eds., Epidemics and Ideas: Essays on the historical perception of pestilence (1992).
*A. Vesalius, Illustrations from the Works of Andreas Vesalius of Brussels (1950).
P. Ziegler, The Black Death (1969).
S. Weeler ed., Five hundred years of medicine in art: an illustrated catalogue of prints and drawings in the Clements C. Fry Collection in the Harvey Cushing/John Hay Whitney Medical Library at Yale University (2001).
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Transferable skills:
--locate, collect and analyze material (both primary and secondary) independently;
--express ideas and arguments clearly, both orally and in writing;
--evaluate different approaches, benefits and challenges and make informed choices as to which are best suited to the material studied;
--manage workload effectively, stick to the timetable, and complete the assignments within the time given.
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Monica Azzolini
Tel: (0131 6)50 9964
Course secretaryMrs Lindsay Scott
Tel: (0131 6)50 9948
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