Objects, Images, and Spaces of Health

This group provides a forum for scholarly work on the premodern period that connects histories of science, technology, and health, with histories of art, visual culture, and material culture. In order to ensure a broad range of approaches and opinions within the working group, its key terms will be broadly defined in all respects: we see "premodernity" stretching backwards from the seventeenth century to antiquity; "health" as incorporating global histories of both institutional medicine and more vernacular practices and personnel of healing; and "visual and material culture" ranging from the built environment to the smaller-scale world of images, diagrams, tools, and other technical objects.

The goal of the working group is to focus on collaborating over problems, not on polished papers. Monthly 90-minute virtual discussions focus on a pre-circulated piece of writing: book chapters, articles, position pieces, book proposals, or any other format. After a brief 5-minute introduction by the author and 10-minute commentary by a designated respondent, the rest of the session focuses on questions, discussion, and debate. We will also use this group as an opportunity to collaborate over resources, hosting a shared Google drive or similar to pool both historical, visual, and scholarly materials of relevance to group members.


Please set your timezone at https://www.chstm.org/user

Consortium Respectful Behavior Policy

Participants at Consortium activities will treat each other with respect and consideration to create a collegial, inclusive, and professional environment that is free from any form of discrimination, harassment, or retaliation.

Participants will avoid any inappropriate actions or statements based on individual characteristics such as age, race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, marital status, nationality, political affiliation, ability status, educational background, or any other characteristic protected by law. Disruptive or harassing behavior of any kind will not be tolerated. Harassment includes but is not limited to inappropriate or intimidating behavior and language, unwelcome jokes or comments, unwanted touching or attention, offensive images, photography without permission, and stalking.

Participants may send reports or concerns about violations of this policy to conduct@chstm.org.

Upcoming Meetings

There are no currently scheduled upcoming events.

Past Meetings

  • June 14, 2024

    "Windows to the Surgeon: Eye Diseases, Remedies, and Images in Early Modern German Print and Manuscript"
    Alisha Rankin (Tufts)
    Response: Allison Stielau (UCL)
    NB: Hi-res images for this paper can be found at the following link: https://tufts.box.com/s/80051bhn8vnegae1u4dyt4oe0ok01les

  • May 3, 2024

    Note, we are meeting on May 3rd this month, so as to avoid a clash with the AAHM Meeting
    "Rethinking “Infirmity” in Crusader Jerusalem: A New History of the Hospital of St. John"
    Katharine Park (Harvard)
    Reponse: Peter Jones (Cambridge)

  • April 12, 2024

    "Discussion: Objects, Images, and Spaces of Health...  for Broad Publics"
    Jill Burke (Edinburgh)
    Kathleen Crowther (Oklahoma)
    Mary Fissell (Johns Hopkins)
    Jack Hartnell (UEA)

  • March 8, 2024

    "The Panther & The Worm: Guido da Vigevano's Medical and Technological Conquest of the Holy Land"
    Lauren Rozenberg (UEA/Leverhulme)
    Response: Jess Bailey (UCL)


  • February 9, 2024

    "Translating New World Drugs in Late Renaissance Italy: The Case of Indies Balsam"
    Sharon Strocchia (Emory)
    Response: Mackenzie Cooley (Hamilton)
    A note from Sharon on the text:
    Dear colleagues,
    Thank you for taking the time to read and engage with my work. Some quick remarks to frame the paper: it's a freestanding essay that has been accepted for publication in an edited volume titled Medicine in Early Modern Italy: Between Theory and Practice, ed. Sandra Cavallo and John Henderson (forthcoming from Brepols later this year). There is still time on my end to make revisions, since we're not yet at the proof stage, so any comments or suggestions will be greatly appreciated. More importantly, the paper takes up themes that I'm developing in a book manuscript about the commercialization of medical remedies in late Renaissance Italy (1550-1650). I'd be very grateful for any feedback that would help me think through the issues as well as the presentation of evidence. Thank you!  

  • January 12, 2024

    "Roundtable: The Malleable Body: Surgeons, Artisans and Amputees in Early Modern Germany (Manchester UP, 2023)"
    Heidi Hausse (Auburn)
    Pamela O. Long (Independent)
    Alisha Rankin (Tufts)
    Paolo Savoia (Bologna)

  • December 8, 2023

    "Anatomy and the Early Académie Royale des Sciences"
    Katherine Reinhart (Binghamton)
    Response: Antoine Gallay (Geneva)

  • November 10, 2023

    "Marginal Recipes, Major Insights: Exploring the Manuscript Contexts of Early Medieval Medical Knowledge"
    Claire Burridge (Sheffield)
    Response: Debby Banham (Cambridge)

  • October 13, 2023

    "'The Männel is a root, it should be called an Allraune': A Mandrake, Magic, and Money in Seventeenth-Century Saxony"
    Tara Nummedal (Brown)
    Response: Alisha Rankin (Tufts)

  • September 8, 2023

    *Note Special Time*
    "Figuring Racial Difference in Early Nineteenth-Century France"
    Stephanie O'Rourke (St Andrews)
    Response: Suman Seth (Cornell)
    As framing for the piece, Stephanie says:
    This text is the fourth and final chapter of my current book manuscript. This book argues that in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, picturing landscape functioned as the primary means through which European artists grappled with an enormous transformation in how humans relate to the natural world, characterized by the management and extraction of “natural resources” on an unprecedented scale and within a global network. This entailed, among other things, employing novel systems for measuring, analyzing, and manipulating natural phenomena across vast distances. The challenge for artists during this period lay in creating pictorial modes that could be commensurate with such procedures. Multi-national in its scope, this book explores how European landscapes pictured the natural environment in relation to specific extractive industries such as mining and timber harvesting as well as emerging concepts about race, climate, and waste operative within the continent and its colonial networks.

Group Conveners

  • jackhartnell's picture

    Jack Hartnell

    Jack Hartnell is Associate Professor of Art History at the University of East Anglia, UK, where his research and teaching focus on the visual culture of late medieval and early renaissance medicine, cartography, and mathematics. In 2019–20 he was the Dibner Fellow in the History of Science and Technology at the Huntington Library in California. Before starting at UEA in 2017 he held positions at Columbia University, The Courtauld Institute of Art, the Victoria and Albert Museum, and the Max-Planck-Institut für Wissenschaftsgeschichte in Berlin. He is the author of Medieval Bodies (Wellcome, 2018) and has a forthcoming book provisionally entitled Wound Man: The Many Lives of a Medieval Surgical Image.


  • ElaineLeong's picture

    Elaine Leong

    Elaine Leong is Lecturer in History at University College London, UK. She is the author of Recipes and Everyday Knowledge: Medicine, Science and the Household in Early Modern England and co-editor of Secrets and Knowledge in Medicine and Science 1500-1800 (Ashgate, 2011), Working with Paper: Gendered Practices in the History of Knowledge (Pittsburgh, 2019) and the Cultural History of Medicine in the Renaissance (Bloomsbury, 2021). She serves as co-editor of Osiris and the Social Histories of Medicine book series at Manchester University Press. Her current projects include a book-length project provisionally titled Reading Riviére in Early Modern England and “Technologies of Health c. 1450-1750” which is funded by a Wellcome Trust University Award


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