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It was common knowledge in early modern England that sexual desire was malleable, and could be increased or decreased by a range of foods – including artichokes, oysters and parsnips. This book argues that these aphrodisiacs were used not simply for sexual pleasure, but, more importantly, to enhance fertility and reproductive success; and that at that time sexual desire and pleasure were felt to be far more intimately connected to conception and fertility than is the case today. It draws on a range of sources to show how, from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries, aphrodisiacs were recommended for the treatment of infertility, and how men and women utilised them to regulate their fertility. Via themes such as gender, witchcraft and domestic medical practice, it shows that aphrodisiacs were more than just sexual curiosities – they were medicines which operated in a number of different ways unfamiliar now, and their use illuminates popular understandings of sex and reproduction in this period
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IHR Gender and History in the Americas Seminar Series
Monday 6th October (17.30-19.30)
Holden Room 103, Senate House, London
Charlie Jeffries (University of Cambridge)
Adolescent Women and Anti-Abortion Politics in Reagan’s Right
De Partu Annual Meeting and Workshop in Manchester
14 October 2014, 10am – 5.00pm
Venue : Chetham’s Music School, Manchester
Published July 2013
Angela Muir, ‘Illegitimacy in Eighteenth-Century Wales’, The Welsh History Review, 26, 3 (July, 2013), pp 351-88.
Published in 2014
Anne Hanley, ‘“Scientific truth into homely language”: The training and practice of midwives in ophthalmia neonatorum, 1895-1914’, Social History of Medicine (2014): 199-220.
Published August 2014 (Open Access)
Jennifer Evans, ‘Female Barrenness, Bodily Access and Aromatic Treatments in Seventeenth-Century England’, Historical Research, vol. 87, no. 237 (2014), pp 423-43.
Across the seventeenth century medical self-help manuals noted that aromatic substances were a suitable remedy for female barrenness. It has often been suggested that in the early modern period physicians did not touch their patients but instead relied upon patient narrative to diagnose and treat the sick body. This article problematizes this issue by investigating the multi-sensory approach to treating infertility, a disorder invested with concerns of gendered bodily access. It will be demonstrated that the recommendation of aromatic treatments for infertility allowed male physicians a means to negotiate the complex gender boundaries that restricted their access to women’s bodies.
This article is available to read in full via open access.