Margaret Cavendish and the Medical Establishment
Benjamin Goldberg (University of Pittsburgh)

part of: Food, Plants, Remedies and Healing Practices: Women’s Ideas in the History of Medicine
Tomorrow, 4:30pm - 6:30pm

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University of Exeter
Paderborn University

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Abstract: This talk explores how the seventeenth-century philosopher Margaret Cavendish interacted with the medical world of her time. We examine a set of historiographical issues arising from a manuscript collection of her and William’s medical recipes, MS Pw V90, preserved in the archives of the University of Nottingham. Our transcription and analysis of this manuscript (The Medical World of Margaret Cavendish, Palgrave-MacMillan: 2023) challenges the common view that Cavendish opposed traditional Galenic medicine as well as the Scholastic tradition. In grappling with her views on professional medicine, we also investigate whether Cavendish faced any discrimination or mistreatment from her doctors because of her gender, as some have suggested, focusing on her relationship to one of her physicians in particular, the prominent doctor Théodore de Mayerne. Along the way, we highlight the medical achievements (mainly in the recipe field) of other noblewomen in Cavendish’s network.

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