For man and beast: animal health care in Early Modern England

Thursday 27 October
The Stripe, King Alfred Campus, University of Winchester, Sparkford Road, Winchester, Hampshire SO22 4NR

​Inaugural Lecture by Prof. Louise Hill Curth, Professor of Medical History

Academic research on health and illness in the past tends to divided between academics either interested in humans or in 'non-human' animals. Although there has been a rise in studies on the latter in recent years, these have almost totally excluded what is often demeaningly labelled 'pre-veterinary' medicine, referring to the 'pre-scientific' period before the founding of England's first veterinary college in 1791. According to some historians, this new institution brought about the end of ineffectual, cruel and/or barbaric practices.

As my research has shown, and continues to show, the idea that animal health care either did not exist or was 'non-scientific' is entirely nonsensical. This paper will begin by showing how Early Modern medical beliefs and practices were based on ancient Greek ideas which had developed and evolved over many centuries. Referred to as 'the science of the stars', this incorporated a comprehensive system of preventive, preservative and remedial medicine. It will then move on to an examination of actual practices, including different types of animal healers and the plethora of widely available printed materials on how to care for one's animals. Finally I will focus on the economic, moral and emotional reasons why this system of animal health care not only existed but thrived in Early Modern England.

Our professorial Inaugural Lectures are free and open to the public. For more information, click here

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