Paris, 2-3 September 2010

Call for Papers

Is the history of medicine “that of its instruments?” (Henri Sigerist). In spite of the importance of material tools for diagnosis and therapeutic practices since Antiquity, we have insufficient knowledge of medical equipment, its uses or production. Yet, recent studies have emphasized the importance of the forceps in the successful management of difficult births, the role of ceramic in the storage and commercial display of drugs in early modern Europe, the development of toyware and that of metallic trusses sent to the colonies, or the visual technologies that linked corpses, printed images, wax artefacts and instruments for diagnosis, to give a few examples.

Équiper la santé: l’économie de l’instrumentation médicale en Europe et dans ses colonies, 1600–1850

The medical “life of things”

What was considered instrumental to medicine? Patients and practitioners have used a wide variety of tools – trusses, plasters, forceps, cutting knives, herniary bandaging, electrical devices, baths, orthopaedic machines, models, tools for diagnosis, up to plants transformed into medical commodities or “medicines”. Some were similar to devices that are still in use today; others have fallen into oblivion, thus challenging medical museums’ curators who wish to present them before the public. What were the technologies of the early modern patient and practitioner – surgeons, midwives, barbers, nurses, etc.? To what extent did the early modern medical equipment contribute to the management of health, by patients and/or practitioners and to the redefining of medical knowledge and know-how? What type of medical trades did they help to set up or to challenge? How did tools and commodities help redefining medical work? How did they get into use, and how did they circulate among the medical community?

Medical technologies, industry and commerce.

How were the products conceived and marketed? How was the production of medical instrumentation organized? To what extent had the trade recourse to patenting, the expert evaluation of academies, such as the Académie royale de chirurgie? Which industrial trades and production sectors did it bring together? How was it funded? Did medical instruments’ makers exploit new channels for the retailing of their instruments — such as nineteenth-century French industrial fairs — or use old ones? What were the routes of medical instruments to individual practitioners, public charities, national armies or to the colonies?

The conference will bring together scholars working on different places and periods with the view to contribute to a European history of medical instruments and medicine in its global context. Scholars are invited to send a abstract – in English or French – stating the subject of their presentation, their sources and methodologies, before November 30

th, 2009. They will state their contact details.

Contact :

[email protected]

The conference aims to present highly innovative interdisciplinary research on the material culture and practices of medicine, at the crossroads of medical history, the history of technology and economic history. Considering Europe and its colonies between 1600 — the beginning of herniary surgery in France — and 1850 — the launching of world fairs —  the conference will address two major issues:

Fitting for Health: the Economy of Medical Technology in Europe and its Colonies, 1600–1850