A Material History of Medicines in Seventeenth-Century England
By examining an array of sources from seventeenth century England, This article studies the medicines and medical community in a disease-ridden context. I chose the seventeenth century as the field of this research, particularly because plague eruptions occurred frequently in England throughout this period of time. The article serves as a material-culture history, for it is built around the materiality of medicines: Their distinct characters, their manufacturing, and their retailing. This article contends that seventeenth-century English medicines reflect the general stagnation in the development of medical ideas and serious divisions within the medical community. People’s preoccupation with scents indicate their reliance on ancient doctrines, and the lack of consensus regarding manufacturing methods manifested the rifts within the medical community. The disputes also existed in regards to medicine-selling, as two prominent professions of the medical industry, the physicians and apothecaries, antagonized each other due to profit conflicts in the medical market. The fogyish ideas, endless disputes, lack of consensus, and the poor effects of medicines reflect a stagnated and chaotic era during which medicines were an essential source of controversy.
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