Seasonality and Slaughter: Sourcing Animal-Ingredients in Seventeenth-Century Household Medicine

part of: Food, Plants, Remedies and Healing Practices: Women’s Ideas in the History of Medicine
June 26, 2024, 4:30pm - 6:30pm

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University of Exeter
Paderborn University

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Abstract: Springtime was an industrious season of the 17th century household. In a period of domestic production and proactivity, household medical practitioners worked to prevent illness and preserve health. The perceived environmental subjectivity of the body encouraged practitioners to prepare stocks of medicine for a host of ailments believed to arise from changing climatic, ecological, and astrological conditions, as well as shifts in human activity, labour, and diet. At the same time as the changing environment threated the health of the body, springtime opened new possibilities to sources natural ingredients for the making of remedies. Of note was the provisioning of pregnant and juvenile animals, made readily available by the changing season and desired for their perceived medical efficacy. Turning to these seasonal aspects of domestic medical care, this talk provides an analysis of animal sourcing and processing techniques recommended in a series of seventeenth-century English manuscripts recipes authored by women. In highlighting the interconnected issues of seasonality, medical provisioning, and animal utility, it illuminates a domestic epistemology of animal use and value, as well as the local, environmental specificity of household medicine in the seventeenth century.

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