Drinking Plain Water in the Early Modern Period

Drinking Plain Water
in the Early Modern Period

Disease Prevention and Terapeutics

David Gentilcore

2 July 2024 – 5 PM (CEST)

The early modern period witnessed a complete shift in medical attitudes towards drinking water. In this two-part paper, I propose to compare knowledge around the consumption of common water with medical practice and the changes both underwent.

We introduce this with a brief discussion of the sorts of analyses of the “qualities of waters” that were carried out at the time, a history that has yet to be written, especially for plain or ordinary waters (as opposed to mineral or spa waters).

We shall then move on to a discussion of medical knowledge, both in theory (prevention) and in practice (therapeutics).

For the first, focusing on the changing use of drinking water in the prevention of disease, we shall consider printed health regimens (guides to staying healthy and living long), then a very successful literary genre.

For the second, the changing place of drinking water in medical treatment, we shall explore medical case histories and consultations, with real patients as participants, to understand how doctors put their knowledge into practice.

About the Speakers ...

David Gentilcore is Professor of Modern History at the Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, with particular interests in the history of popular religion, the history of medicine and health, and the history of food and diet. He studied history and italian studies at the University of Toronto, before taking a Master’s degree in History at McMaster University in Canada and completed his PhD at the University of Cambridge, with a thesis on the system of the sacred in southern Italy during the Counter Reformation. He has published widely on various aspects of the cultural history of medicine. His book Medical Charlatanism in Early Modern Italy (Oxford University Press, 2006) was awarded the Royal Society of Canada’s Dr Jason A. Hannah medal in 2008 and in 2012 he was awarded the Salvatore De Renzi International Prize for his contribution to the history of medicine, by the University of Salerno medical school and the Ordine dei Medici of Salerno.

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