HIST 410: Week 3

Dietary Expertise in the Enlightenment

Our 2-part reading for this week continues and focuses our previous attention to medical expertise and moral authority. It’s very clearly written, but quite dense, so it’s spread across two days so we can unpack it.

The theme for the week is how physicians beginning the 1700s started promoting dietary advice and their expertise in different ways than they did previously (see Week 2). We also see the early ties between dietary advice, moral authority, a common sense, a group we’ll come back to repeatedly over the semester.

Mon 8/31

  • Steven Shapin, “Trusting George Cheyne,” 263–79.

Questions to keep in mind while reading: Why is “micromechanism” important in this article and for 18th-century physicians? How did was it invoked in medical practice? Are there any modern analogs to the micromechanistic approach?

Wed 9/02

  • Steven Shapin, “Trusting George Cheyne,” 279–97.

Questions to keep in mind while reading: What kinds of advice did his patients get in their personal correspondence? Was there any conflict with common sense? How did Cheyne appeal to morality in his letters with patients?

Fri 9/04

  • George Cheyne, An Essay on Regimen,” i-xxiv, and randomly sample the whole text to get a feel for the tone, language, and rhetorical effect. Note that a single “s” within a word looks like an “f”. For instance, on title page you’ll see “Philofophical” instead of “Philosophical”. Yes, the long “f”s and the language in general seems weird to us moderns, but you get used to it after a few pages.

A NOTE ON PRIMARY SOURCES: After taking an upper-level history course, you should end up with a sense of what historians actually do. You’ll see that working with historical sources is difficult! Like in any profession, good historians make it seem easy. The stories, the narratives, the summary, etc—–it all seem so obvious! But when you go back at look at the source material, you can understand how much work and INTERPRETATION goes into those. Nothing at all is truly obvious.