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Title: Religion, medicine and confessional identity in early modern England
Author: Mann, Sophie Liana
ISNI:       0000 0004 7656 083X
Awarding Body: King's College London
Current Institution: King's College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2014
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Early modern historians often frame ‘religion’ and ‘medicine’ as distinct categories of experience and conduct. They have also suggested that religious responses to illness were steadily supplanted by medical interventions during the period. This study calls these assumptions into question. Focusing on the regions of Yorkshire and Essex between approximately 1580 and 1720, it argues that religious beliefs and practices comprised an integral part of medical work, from household physic to the pursuits of university-trained physicians. It demonstrates that tending to the sick body was a religious as well as a medical act, couched in notions of divine favour, Christian duty and Christian charity. Moreover, in an age of profound and contested religious change, a sense of confessional identity shaped people’s medical behaviour in a number of ways. In particular, this study highlights how the exigencies of sickness and its treatment could have paradoxical outcomes, at times working to bolster a sense of religious distinctions, whilst at others working to foster forms of confessional coexistence. In the light of these complexities, this study resists the current tendency to draw schematic correlations between a person’s religious identity and their medical conduct. The thesis is divided into five chapters, each looking at healing practices from a different perspective, starting in the household, and steadily moving out into the wider community. Lay and qualified healers; the dynamics between practitioners and their clients; the treatment of ‘virtuous’ sufferers; and medical charity are all examined. How such practices fared in tense religio-political contexts will also be considered. By examining these issues I hope to shed fresh light on the ways in which medical practices were embedded in social relations and community experiences; and begin to unravel some of the complex channels through which confessional identity was experienced and expressed in relation to healing. Furthermore, this research highlights that religious beliefs and practices did not simply coexist alongside medicine, or provide alternatives to medicine, but rather, operated at its very heart. This requires us to think more carefully about the language we use to talk about things that were related in such extraordinarily subtle ways in the past. The very phrase ‘religion and medicine’ is problematic, since the two subjects are presented as separate spheres of activity. Adopting terms like ‘religion in, or as, medicine’, and vice versa, would provide more useful frames of reference. Employing the more expansive term ‘healing’ is equally helpful, since it constitutes something central to medical practice, as well as something deeply rooted in religious tradition.
Supervisor: Jordanova, Ludmilla Jane ; Kostyanovsky, Lucy Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available