"Alternative” Medicine in the Eighteenth-Century

deadline for submissions: 
October 3, 2022
full name / name of organization: 
American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies
contact email: 

Competing concepts of “medicine” and “healing” abound, with roots in our period; what might we think of as “alternative” medicine? Competing conceptions of medicine were proposed by Bruonians (John Brown’s binary of stimulant vs sedative) and Cullenians (followers of William Cullen), and yet another by Samuel Hahnemann (the law of similars, the law of the minimal dose). We might consider physiological interventions (surgeries, purgings) in contrast with more palliative approaches aimed at restoring “nature’s balance.” The origins of obstetrics (and its displacement of midwives), anatomical dissection and pathology (and their relation to criminality), and mesmerism are linked to famous male figures but also their critics. What do we make of fashionable medicine—“taking the waters,” sea-bathing, mountain air, or patent medicines? Or we might consider alternatives to European and Euro-American conceptions of medicine—local knowledges, indigenous practices, or the self-care of enslaved people and their trans-oceanic knowledge transfer. What did the everyday practice of medicine by those without medical training look like? How do we consider the histories of new technologies, borrowed or adapted practices, the introduction of formerly unfamiliar flora or practices as “alternative”? What does the foundational assumption of “health” and “balance” tell us about attitudes towards different abilities and embodiments? Presentations focused on medical treatises, first person accounts including travel narratives and life writing, portraiture and visual images including satirical prints from the eighteenth-century world are all welcome. 


Applications directly to ASECS 

You can find the call, submission form, and more information here: