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For the plenary speakers’ abstracts, please see the accompanying page, Plenary Speakers. Below, abstracts are organised by panel. To jump to a specific panel, you can use the below links:

Panel 1: Health and Narratives

Panel 2: Health and Diet

Panel 3: General

Panel 4: Health and Microstructure

Panel 5: Other Perspectives

Panel 6: Health and Colonialism

Lectures on the materia medica, as delivered by William Cullen, M.D., professor of medicine in the University of Edinburgh / Now published by permission of the author, and with many corrections from the collation of different manuscripts by the editors.

Panel 1: Health and Narratives

Medical Narratives from 1375 to 1800

Irma Taavitsainen

University of Helsinki, Finland

Narrative elements occur in English medical writing throughout its history. The aim of this assessment is to demonstrate how narrative forms and functions change in the course of time and how they relate to special genres and reflect scientific thought styles. In addition, the target audiences show in narrative elements as learned texts differ from writings targeted at heterogeneous lay audiences. The data for the study was located with corpus searches (see below), but the method of assessmen is qualitative discourse analysis.

In the medieval period, Latin case reports were at the core of university teaching in medicine. The institutional function was, however, lost in the vernacular, and the genre continued in a freer form achieving additional functions. Biblical stories and classical anecdotes occur mainly in texts for heterogeneous lay audiences with an entertaining function. (see Taavitsainen and Pahta 2000).

In the sixteenth century narratives emerge in surgical textbooks in the interactive dialogue form, with fictional elements in their frame stories. Ego narratives of illness emerge soon after in private writings like diaries and letters, supplying patients’ viewpoints to medical practises. The Royal Society (RS, 1662-) introduced the novel methodology of the New Science with replicable and objective experiments recorded in the chronilogical order in first-person narration. These reports formed a main genre of empiricism. They were created for the RS discourse community journal The Philosophical Transactions (1665-), but employed in other medical and scientific  journals  and writings as well (see Hiltunen 2010)

The Late Modern English case reports continue as a professional genre, often published in series, thus paving the way towards the thought style of of probabilities (see Hiltunen 2019 and Lehto and Taavitsainen 2019). Both doctors’ and patients’ narratives intertwine in the later period. Medical anecdotes were distributed for polite society readers’ amusement in TheG entleman’s Magazine (1731-1907). In accordance with the general trend, some medical narratives were cast in the satirical mode in this period.


Corpus of Early English Medical Writing, 1375-1800 (

The Royal Society Corpus (


Hiltunen, Turo. 2010. The Philosophical Transactions. In: Taavitsainen Irma and Päivi Pahta (eds.). Early Modern English Medical Texts. Amsterdam: Benjamins.127-131.

Hiltunen, Turo. 2019. Scientific periodicals: The Philosophical Transactions and the Edinburgh Medical Journal.  In: Taavitsainen Irma and Turo Hiltunen (eds.). Late Modern English Medical Texts: Writing Medicine in the Eighteeenth Century. Amsterdam: Benjamins. 317-326.

Lehto, Anu and Irma Taavitsainen. 2019. Medical case reports in Late Modern English. In: Taavitsainen and Hiltunen (eds.). 89-111.

Taavitsainen Irma and Päivi Pahta.2000. Conventions of Professional Writing: The Medical Case Report in a Historical Perspective. Journal of English Linguistics 28:1, 60-76.

Narratology in Early Modern Medical Manuscripts: The Case of London, Wellcome Library, MS 213

Laura Esteban-Segura

Universidad de Málaga

It has been argued that narrative elements can be found throughout the history of English scientific writing. Narratives can be linked to specific genres; thus, learned texts for medical doctors were different from those directed to lay audiences (Taavitsainen 2022). This article sets out to analyse a specific type of medical narrative, that of recipe collections, focusing for the purpose on the text housed in London, Wellcome Library, MS 213. The manuscript dates from the beginning of the seventeenth century (1606, more specifically) and gathers recipes “experienced and tryed by the speciall practize of Mrs Corlyon” (Moorat 1962-1973),[1] who can allegedly be considered the writer/compilator. The codex belonged to Alethea Howard (née Talbot), countess of Arundel, and seems to have been a wedding gift from her mother-in-law (Leong and Pennell 2007: 141). The main aim of the study is to identify and examine narrative forms and functions as well as particular features in the collection of recipes held in MS Wellcome 213, which can contribute to the knowledge of recipes written by (and for) women during the Early Modern period.

Keywords: Early Modern English, medicine, MS Wellcome 213, recipe collection, women writing.


Leong, Elaine & Sara Pennell. 2007. Recipe Collections and the Currency of Medical Knowledge in the Early Modern ‘Medical Marketplace’. In Jenner, Mark S. R. & Patrick Wallis (eds.), Medicine and the Market in England and Its Colonies, c. 1450-c. 1850. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. 133-152.

Moorat, S. A. J. 1962-1973. Catalogue of Western Manuscripts on Medicine and Science in the Wellcome Historical Medical Library. London: Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine.

Taavitsainen, Irma. 2022. Narratives from 1375 to 1800 in Medical and Scientific Writing: Forms and Functions. Paper delivered at the European Society for the Study of English (ESSE) Conference 2022 Mainz, 29 August-2 September 2022, Johannes Gutenberg University, Mainz, Germany.

[1] This has been taken from the database description of the Library Catalogue of the Wellcome Collection, available at

Licence: Public Domain Mark

Credit: A haggard old woman carelessly mixing a recipe for corns on the fire in her sordid bedroom. Etching by G. Cruikshank, 1819, after Captain F. Marryat.

Wellcome Collection.

Panel 2: Health and Diet

Interpersonal communication in women´s recipe collections in Late Modern English

Isabel de la Cruz-Cabanillas

University of Alcalá

This paper explores the expression of interpersonality in recipe collections compiled by women in Late Modern English with focus on the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. At that time, the world of science was controlled by men (Golinski 2002: 125–126) and this is evident in the case of the medical profession. Whereas male medical practice was socially legitimated, and men could train as physicians, apothecaries and surgeons, women could chiefly practise as midwives and were not allowed to receive university training in British universities until the late nineteenth century (Christie, 2019). Nevertheless, women were responsible for the healthcare of the members of their own households, which explains the good number of remedy books that are extant in this period both in printed and manuscript format. Likewise, the construct of interpersonality has attracted scholarly attention for decades now, but the studies are mainly concentrated on the speech of male speakers. Only recently the focus has been shifted towards female voices (see Alonso-Almeida & Alvarez-Gil 2021, for instance). The starting point of the present study is the contention that men and women can make use of similar discourse markers, although it is expected that a set of markers could be identified as belonging to female non-literary writing. The phenomenon of interpersonality involves a series of linguistic choices that are intended to establish and keep social relations (Ventola 1987; Giner 2017: 247). In the discourse of medical instructional texts, some discourse markers are used “to express authority and to engage readers throughout a text in order to achieve its generic aim” (Suau-Jimenez, 2016: 203). Some of these markers are related to the study of personal pronouns and verbal voice. We will analyse the language of the female writers in our corpus of recipe collections in Late Modern English to show the realisation and distribution of interpersonal features to construct meaning reflecting their identity in their communities and their point of view regarding every aspect of knowledge. This allows them to claim and strengthen their position in topics that were traditionally led by men. The analysis will evidence the presence of women in the construction of the medical thought, reflecting the attitude of these writers towards their texts and negotiating their position in the specialised community with a communicative activity that includes the expression of authority and comradeship, among other aspects.

To carry out the research, several sources will be explored: 1) The corpus which is being compiled by the members of the team working on the project “Interpersonal devices in specialized household and public instructional texts written by women in Modern English” (project reference: 125928NB-100). It comprises nineteenth-century printed texts and manuscript recipe compendia from several British libraries. 2) Remedy books compiled by women in the eighteenth century, which are part of various collections held in Glasgow University Library. 3) The samples authored by women which are contained in the recipe section of Late Middle English Medical Texts by Taavitsainen et al. (2019).


Alonso-Almeida, F. & F. J. Álvarez-Gil (2021) “Impoliteness in women’s specialised writing in seventeenth-century English”. Journal of Historical Pragmatics,  22/ 1, 121 – 152. DOI:

Christie, B. (2019) “First women to study medicine in the UK are honoured”. BMJ 365: l1635. DOI:

Giner, D. (2017) “Rhetorical Strategies of Persuasion in the Reasoning of International Investment Arbitral Awards”. In Orts, M. A., Breeze, R. & M. Gotti (eds). Power, Persuasion and Manipulation in Specialised Genres. Providing Keys to the Rhetoric of Professional Communities. Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 9-26.

Golinski, J. (2002) “The Care of the Self and the Masculine Birth of Science”. History of Science 40 (2): 125–145.

Suau-Jimenez, F. (2016) “What can the discursive construction of stance and engagement voices in traveler forums and tourism promotional websites bring to a cultural, cross-generic and disciplinary view of interpersonality?” Iberica, 31, 199–220.

Taavitsainen, I., Hiltunen, T., Lehto, A., Marttila, V., Pahta, P., Ratia, M., Suhr, C. & J. Tyrkkö (compilers) (2019) Late Modern English Medical Texts: The Corpus. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Ventola, E. (1987) The structure of social interaction. London: Pinter.

Evaluative language in medical recipes in C19th cookery books written by women

Francisco Jesus Alonso Almeida

Universidad de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria

The recipe text has been the subject of previous studies from various perspectives, namely palaeographic, historical, linguistic, pharmaceutical. Examples of these studies on the genre include Taavitsainen (2001a), Carroll (2009), Alonso-Almeida (2013), Connolly (2016), Bator (2017), De la Cruz-Cabanillas (2017), Leong (2018), and have shown how recipes have been exceptional portrayals of both tradition and innovation. This is not surprising, as recipes are excellent means of conveying practical information in relatively short texts, thus facilitating immediate access to information and are therefore ideal for change to permeate as well. The relationship between medicine and cooking represents a long tradition, so it is not surprising to find an assortment of medical and culinary recipes in the same volumes, as already noted in Ruberto de Nola’s Libro de coȝina (1525, ff. 1v-2r), and so many others before him. Thus, cooking is conceived as a craft intended not only for tastebuds, but also for the restoration and/or preservation of good health; in both cases, authors strive to certify the quality and benefits of recipes through specific linguistic devices of evaluation, as reported in Jones (1998), Taavitsainen (2001b), Quintana-Toledo (2009) and Mäkinen (2011).

This presentation does not pursue a different aim from the studies mentioned above, but rather my intention is to provide evidence of the use of evaluative language as used in nineteenth-century cookbooks written by women. The lack of evidence for female authorship throughout history has, however, hindered women’s prominent participation in the interpretation and construction of medical and technical information. This fact has obviously contributed to creating a male-centred scenario, even though recipes have been quite closely related to women, at least within the domestic sphere. The 19th century offers a wealth of recipes that are undoubtedly attributed to women. Many of these recipes have received wide contemporary recognition, and have also come to occupy the relatively new field of the hospital diet. Drawing on evidence excerpted from the Corpus of Women’s Instructive Texts in English (Co-WITE)[1], currently being compiled at the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, my intention is to offer evidence of evaluative language use from a gendered perspective. The method includes both manual and computerised inspection of the texts to identify legitimising strategies seeking to show the writers’ perspective concerning a particular recipe or procedure within a recipe. This includes modal and evidential devices, which are analysed within a cognitive theoretical framework (Marín-Arrese 2009; Langacker 2009) to show the use and function of these interpersonal strategies. While it is too early to say, I expect to find evaluative linguistic structures similar to those of the male authors, although their frequencies and functions may be different.


Alonso-Almeida, F. (2013). Genre conventions in English recipes, 1600–1800. In M. DiMeo & S. Pennell (Eds.), Reading and writing recipe books, 1550–1800 (pp. 68–92).

Bator, M. (2017). Rhyming recipes in medieval cookbooks. Linguistica Silesiana, 38(95–109).

Carroll, R. (2009). Vague language in the medieval recipes in the Forme of Cury. In M. Peikola, J. Skaffari, & S.-K. Tanskanen (Eds.), Instructional Writing in English. Studies in Honour of Risto Hiltunen (pp. 55–82). Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Connolly, M. (2016). Evidence for the Continued Use of Medieval Medical Prescriptions in the Sixteenth Century: A Fifteenth-Century Remedy Book and its Later Owner. Medical History, 60(2), 133–154.

De La Cruz Cabanillas, I. (2017). Genre and text-Type conventions in early modern women’s recipe books. Revista de Linguistica y Lenguas Aplicadas, 12, 13–21.

Jones, Claire 1998. Formula and Formulation: ‘Efficacy Phrases’ in Medieval English Medical Manuscripts. Neuphilologische Mitteilungen. 99: 199–209.

Langacker, R. (1999). Grammar and conceptualization. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Leong, E. (2018). Recipes and everyday knowledge. Recipe, science, and the household in Early Modern England. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press.

Mäkinen, M. (2011). Efficacy phrases in early Modern English medical recipes in Taavitsainen, I. and Pahta, P. (eds.). Medical writing in early Modern English (Studies in English Language). Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 158-179.

Marín-Arrese, J. I. (2009). Effective vs. epistemic stance, and subjectivity/intersubjectivity in political discourse. A case study in Tsangalidis, A. and Facchinetti, R. (eds.). Studies on English modality. In honour of Frank R. Palmer (Linguistic Insights: Studies in Language and Communication). Berlin: Peter Lang, 23-52.

Nola, Ruberto de. (1525). Libro de cozina/ Llibre del coch. Toledo: Impreso por Ramón de Petras.

Quintana-Toledo, E. (2009a). “Middle English medical recipes: A metadiscursive approach” in Studia Anglica Posnaniensia, 45, 2, 21-38. DOI:

Taavitsainen, I. (2001a). Middle English recipes: Genre characteristics, text type features and underlying traditions of writing in Journal of Historical Pragmatics, 2, 1, 85–113. DOI:

Taavitsainen, I. (2001b). Evidentiality and scientific thought-styles: English medical writing in late Middle English and early Modern English in Gotti, M. and Dossena, M. (eds.). Modality in specialized texts: Selected papers of the 1st CERLIS Conference. Bern: Peter Lang, 21-52.

[1] At present, this compilation contains texts from 1800 up to 1899, and we have labelled this as Co-WITE19, now available as a BETA version upon request, and soon distributed by the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria Library. The full Corpus of Women’s Instructive Texts in English (Co-WITE) will include texts from 1550 to 1899, thanks to the generous support of Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación (Reserch project FFI125928NB-100) and Agencia Canaria de investigación, innovación y sociedad de la información (Project reference: CEI2020-09). For more information, please visit the web’s project at

The Adaptation of Medical Knowledge in Late Modern English Household Recipe Books

Giulia Rovelli

University of Bergamo

While progressively shifting towards more professional settings, medicine in the eighteenth century was of necessity still centered on the household and practiced in one way or another by most social groups (Leong 2008 and Smith 2009). In such a context, the household recipe book, which recorded and handed down culinary, household and medical knowledge from one generation to the next, remained an important facet of healthcare in England throughout the long eighteenth century (Allen 2017). These manuscript materials, which were mostly, but not exclusively, compiled by the women of the family, functioned as utilitarian domestic records that contained ready-to-use medical advice collected from a number of individuals belonging to the compiler’s social circle, but also, and increasingly, culled from written sources, which included both specialized publications such as herbals and regimens, and lay ones like encyclopedias, newspapers and magazines (Leong 2008 and Smith 2009). Following the methodologies of corpus-assisted discourse analysis (Baker et al. 2008) and historical sociopragmatics (Culpeper 2009), and making use of both quantitative and qualitative methods, the present paper analyzes a small corpus of household recipe books written in Britain between 1660 and 1800, which were transcribed and collected by the Folger Shakespeare Library (Folger Manuscripts Transcriptions Collection,, with the aim of tracing the sources of the medical information included in these texts and of charting the linguistic, discursive and textual strategies through which the compilers transformed, manipulated and adapted such published material to the new context. The analysis thus attempts to shed further light on the production circumstances of late modern English household recipe books and on the role that written medical information, whether popular or specialized, played in late modern English healthcare.


Household recipe books, manuscripts, medical knowledge, knowledge adaptation, corpus linguistics, historical sociopragmatics, late modern England

Select references

Allen, K. 2017. “Recipe Collections and the Realities of Fashionable Diseases in Eighteenth-Century Elite Domestic Medicine”. Literature and Medicine 35(2): 334-354.

Alonso-Almeida, F. 2013. “Genre conventions in English recipes, 1600–1800”. In DiMeo, M. and S. Pennell (eds.), Reading and writing recipe books, 1550–1800, Manchester: Manchester University Press, pp. 68-90.

Baker, P. et al. 2008. “A Useful Methodological Synergy? Combining Critical Discourse Analysis and Corpus Linguistics to Examine Discourses of Refugees and Asylum Seekers in the UK Press”, Discourse & Society, 19(3): 273-306.

Culpeper, J. 2009. “Historical Sociopragmatics: An Introduction”. Journal of Historical Pragmatics 10(2): 153-160.

Leong, E. 2008. “Making Medicines in the Early Modern Household”. Bulletin of the History of Medicine 82(1), 145-168.

Smith, G. 2009. “Prescribing the Rules of Health and Advice in the Late Eighteenth Century”. In Porter, R. (ed.), Patients and Practitioners: Lay Perceptions of Medicine in Pre-Industrial Society, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 249-282.

Panel 3: General

“That which principally enobles any science, is the dignity of its object, and the public utility arising from it”: midwifery and medical writing in 18th-century British reference works

Elisabetta Lonati

Università degli Studi del Piemonte Orientale

The general aim of this contribution is a historical and diachronic linguistic analysis of the ‘art and science’ called midwifery as it emerges from the paratext of British reference works (instruction manuals and family books, textbooks, treatises, etc.) originally published in English between 1701 and 1800 by contemporary authors. The paratextual sections under scrutiny are front matter (i.e. title page, table of contents, preface and/or introduction, advertisement; dedication is excluded) and back matter (i.e. index and/or glossary, appendix).

The investigation is essentially focussed on i. the terminology used to introduce midwifery (e.g. equivalents, definitions, single words/multiword expressions), ii. the lexical and conceptual network used by different authors to clarify what midwifery is or should be for them and for the ‘community of practice’ (e.g. description, exposition, classification/taxonomy, etc.), iii. the recursive linguistic and rhetorical issues to construct (e.g. inform, instruct, explain, categorise, etc.) the discourse(s) on midwifery and systematise empirical, experimental, and scientific contents, discoveries, and processes over time.

As regards the source texts, they were selected starting from works which include the words midwifery/midwifry and midwife/midwives (Gale Primary Sources) in their title pages, and which only discuss midwifery as an art and/or a branch of medicine. General collection of medical issues were systematically excluded from the final corpus. The corpus includes 130 works (monographs of various length and complexity) written by physicians, surgeons, and practitioners at different levels, and it also includes a very limited number of female writers, in line with 18th-c. socio-historical and socio-cultural context and social roles. The most relevant authors worth mentioning are J. Aitken, H. Bracken, J. Burton, E. Chapman, J. Clarke, T. Denman, J. Douglas, W. Douglas, B. Exton, A. Hamilton, J. Hamilton, J. Leake, J. Maubray, W. Smellie, M. Underwood, etc., and the female writers J. Sharp, M. Stephen and S. Stone. Some of them were prolific writers and, for this reason, are represented in the corpus with more than a single work (e.g. different works on the topic, new editions of the same original work).

The approach is qualitative and is based on close reading of the selected paratextual sections for every item in the corpus. The perspectives in which data, i.e. extracts and examples, are provided and discussed necessarily refer to the social history of medicine (e.g. function and role of midwifery), as well as to the sociolinguistic issues in society at large (i.e. knowledge dissemination, practical notions, plain language, etc.) and within the emerging disciplinary community (e.g. medicalisation and professionalisation of midwifery, epistemological issues and terminological development, language of medicine as ‘science’). Preliminary results highlight a variety of discourses on and around midwifery, along with a variety of genres on the topic (e.g. familiy instruction, collections of cases, lectures, treatises, essays, etc.), approaches (i.e. theory and practice, prevention, management, useful hints, etc.), terminology and registers for different audiences and different purposes.


Primary sources (a selection from the corpus)

Aitken, John. 1784. Principles of midwifery, or puerperal medicine. […] Sold at the Edinburgh Lying-in Hospital, for the benefit of that charity.

Aitken, John. 1786. A system of obstetrical tables, with explanations; representing the foundations of the theory and practice of midwifery. […] Printed for J. Murray, Fleet-Street.

Bracken, Henry. 1737. The midwife’s companion; or, a treatise of midwifery: wherein the whole art is explained. […] Printed for J. Clarke , at the Golden Ball in Duck-Lane near West-Smithfield ; and J. Shuckburgh, at the Sun near the Inner-Temple-Gate in Fleet-Street.

Burton, John. 1751. An essay towards a complete new system of midwifry, theoretical and practical. […] Printed for James Hodges, at the Looking-Glass, facing St Magnus’-Church, London-Bridge.

Chapman, Edmund. 1733. An essay on the improvement of midwifery; chiefly with regard to the operation. […] Printed by A. Blackwell over Somerset Water-Gate in the Strand, for A. Bettesworth and C. Hitch in Pater-Noster Row, J. Walthoe in Cornhill; and sold by T. Cowper in Ivy-Lane.

Clarke, John. 1788. An essay on the epidemic disease of lying-in women, of the years 1787 and 1788, by John Clarke, licentiate in midwifery, of the Royal College of Physicians, and teacher of midwifery, in London. Printed for J. Johnson, St. Paul’s-Church-Yard.

Culpeper, Nicholas. 1701. A directory for midwives: or, a guide for women, in their conception, bearing, and suckling their children. Printed for J. and A. Churchill, at the Black-Stran in Pater-Noster-Row.

Denman, Thomas. 1788. An Introduction to the practice of midwifery. […] Vol. 1, printed by T. Bensley; for J. Johnson, No 72, Saint Paul’s Church-Yard.

Denman, Thomas. 1788. An introduction to the practice of midwifery. […] Vol. 2, printed by T. Bensley; for J. Johnson, No 72, Saint Paul’s Church-Yard.

Douglas, John. 1736. A short account of the state of midwifery in London, Westminster, &c. […] Printed for and sold only by the author in Lad-Lane, near Guild-Hall.

Douglas, William. 1748. A letter to Dr. Smelle [sic]. Shewing the impropriety of his new-invented wooden forceps […] Printed for J. Roberts.

Exton, Brudenell. 1751. A new and general system of midwifery. In four parts. […] Printed for W. Owen, at Homers Head near Temple-Bar.

Hamilton, Alexander. 1781. A treatise of midwifery, comprehending the whole management of female complaints, and the treatment of children in early infancy. […] Printed for J. Dickson, W. Creech, and C. Elliot.

Hamilton, Alexander. 1784. Outlines of the theory and practice of midwifery. […] Printed for C. Elliot, Edinburgh; and G. Robinson, London.

Hamilton, James. 1796. A collection of engravings, designed to facilitate the study of midwifery, explained and illustrated. […] Printed for G. G. & J. Robinson.

Hamilton, James, and Edinburgh General Lying-in Hospital. 1795. Select cases in midwifery; extracted from the records of the Edinburgh General Lying-in Hospital. […] Printed for the benefit of the hospital, and sold by P. Hill; and by J. Johnson, London.

Leake, John. 1767. A course of lectures on the theory and practice of midwifery: in which, Every Thing essentially necessary to the true Knowledge of that Art will be fully explain’d […] [sic].

Leake, John. 1773. A lecture introductory to the theory and practice of midwifery: Including the history, nature and tendency of that science […] Printed for R. Baldwin, Pater-noster Row, and T. Evans, near York Buildings, Strand.

Maubray, John. 1724. The female physician, containing all the diseases incident to that sex, in virgins, wives, and widows; […] The Whole art of New improv’d Midwifery […] Printed for James Holland, at the Bible and Ball, in St. Paul’s-Church-Yard.

Maubray, John. 1725. Midwifery brought to perfection, By Manual Operation […] Printed for James Holland, at the Bible and Ball in St. Paul’s Church-Yard.

Sharp, Jane. 1725. The compleat midwife’s companion: or, the art of midwifry improv’d. Directing child-bearing women how to order themselves in their conception, breeding, bearing, and nursing of children. […] Printed for John Marsall [sic].

Smellie, William. 1742. [A cour]se of lectures upon midwifery, wherein the theory and practice of that art are explain’d in the clearest manner. […] Printed in the Year MDCCXLII. [and following editions]

Smellie, William, and Alexander Hamilton. 1790. A set of anatomical tables, with explanations, and an abridgment of the practice of midwifery […] Printed for Charles Elliot; and C. Elliot and T. Kay, at Cullen’s Head, Strand, London.

Stephen, Margaret. 1795. Domestic midwife; or, the best means of preventing danger in child-birth, considered […] Printed by S. W. Fores, Piccadilly.

Stone, Sarah. 1737. A complete practice of midwifery. Consisting of Upwards Forty Cases or Observations in that valuable Art […] Printed for T. Cooper, at the Globe in Pater-Noster Row.

Underwood, Michael. 1784. A treatise on the diseases of children, with directions for the management of infants from the birth; especially such as are brought up by hand. […] Printed for J. Mathews, No. 18, Strand.

Secondary sources

Medical writing and language studies

Gunnarsson, Britt-Louise. 2011. Languages of Science in the Eighteenth Century. Mouton De Gruyter.

Lehto, Anu. 2019. Public health (11.6). In Late Modern English Medical Texts. John Benjamins Publishing Company. 307–315.

Lehto, Anu and Irma Taavitsainen. 2019. Medical case reports in Late Modern English. Taavitsainen, Irma and Turo Hiltunen (eds.). 2019. In Late Modern English Medical Texts. John Benjamins Publishing Company. 89–112.

Lonati, Elisabetta. 2017. Communicating Medicine. British Medical Discourse in Eighteenth-Century Reference Works. Milano: Di/Segni, Ledizioni.

Lonati, Elisabetta. 2018. Discovering Life in Death: Communicating Anatomical Dissection in Eighteenth-century Medical Writing. Expressio, Rivista di Linguistica, Letteratura e Comunicazione 2.1,

Lonati, Elisabetta. 2019. The Dissemination of Medical Practice in Late Modern Europe: The Case of Buchan’s Domestic Medicine. Status Quaestionis. Language, Text, Culture. Translation and the non-literary text: from early to late modern English, Language issue 17/2019, Sapienza Università di Roma, [edited by] Iolanda Plescia. 

Lonati, Elisabetta. 2020. Paratextual features in 18th-century medical writing. Framing contents and expanding the text. In Matti Peikola and Birte Bös (eds). The Dynamics of Text and Framing Phenomena: Historical approaches to paratext and metadiscourse in English. John Benjamins Publishing Company, 233-266.

Lonati, Elisabetta. 2022. Ethics, Moral practices, and Age-related Social Issues in late 18th-century Medical Discourse: a lexicological and textual approach. Journal of Language and Discrimination, 6.1, 2022, Equinox Publishing, 5–36.

McConchie, Roderick. 2019. Discovery in Haste: English Medical Dictionaries and Lexicographers 1547 to 1796 (Lexicographica. Series Maior Book 156). Mouton De Gruyter.

McConchie, Roderick and Anne Curzan. 2011. Defining in Early Modern English medical texts. In Medical Writing in Early Modern English. Cambridge University Press. 74-93.

Pahta, Päivi. 2011. Eighteenth-century English medical texts and discourses on reproduction. In Britt-Louise Gunnarsson (ed.). Languages of Science in the Eighteenth Century. Mouton De Gruyter. 333-355.

Pahta, Päivi. 2019. Midwifery (11.2d). In Late Modern English Medical Texts. John Benjamins Publishing Company. 271–278.

Pahta, Pahta and Irma Taavitsainen. 2011. An interdisciplinary approach to medical writing in Early Modern English. Taavitsainen, Irma and Päivi Pahta (eds.). 2011. In Medical Writing in Early Modern English. Cambridge University Press. 1-8. 

Taavitsainen, Irma. 2019. Professional and lay medical texts in the eighteenth century. A linguistic stylistic assessment. In Late Modern English Medical Texts. John Benjamins Publishing Company. 173–198.

Taavitsainen, Irma and Päivi Pahta (eds.). 2011. Medical Writing in Early Modern English. Cambridge University Press.

Taavitsainen, Irma and Turo Hiltunen (eds.). 2019. Late Modern English Medical Texts Writing medicine in the eighteenth century. John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Social History of medicine

Allotey, Janette C. 2011. Writing midwives’ history: problems and pitfalls. Midwifery, 27.2, 131–137.

Allotey, Janette C. 2011. English midwives’ responses to the medicalisation of childbirth (1671-1795). Midwifery, 27.4, 532–538.

Borsay, Anne and Billie Hunter (eds.). 2012. Nursing and Midwifery in Britain since 1700. Palgrave MacMillan.

Brandon Schnorrenberg, Barbara. 1981. Is Childbirth Any Place for a Woman? The Decline of Midwifery in Eighteenth-Century England. Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture, 10, 393-408. DOI

De Brouwere, Vincent. The Comparative Study of Maternal Mortality over Time: The Role of the Professionalisation of Childbirth. Social History of Medicine, 20.3, 541–562.

Dunn, P.M. 2001. Dr John Burton (1710–1771) of York and his obstetric treatise. Archives of Disease in Childhood. Fetal and Neonatal Edition, 84, F74–F76.

Fissell M. E. 2008. Introduction: women, health, and healing in early modern Europe. Bulletin of the history of medicine, 82.1, 1–17.

Fontes da Costa, Palmira. 2009. The Singular and the Making of Knowledge at the Royal Society of London in the Eighteenth Century. Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

Forman Cody, Lisa. 1999. The Politics of Reproduction: From Midwives’ Alternative Public Sphere to the Public Spectacle of Man-Midwifery. Eighteenth-Century Studies, 32.4, 477-495.

Forman Cody, Lisa. 2004. Living and Dying in Georgian London’s Lying-In Hospitals. Bulletin of the History of Medicine, 78.2, 309-348. DOI

Fox, Sarah. 2022. Giving Birth in Eighteenth-Century England. University of London Press.

Hunter, Kenneth R. 2002. Dr John Clarke: licentiate in midwifery of the Royal College of Physicians of London. Clinical Medicine JRCPL, 2, 153–6.

Lane, Joan. 2001. A Social History of Medicine: Health, Healing and Disease in England, 1750-1950. Routledge.

Lindemann, Mary. 2010 (2nd). Medicine and Society in Early Modern Europe. Cambridge University Press.

Mangham, Andrew and Greta Depledge (eds.). 2011. The Female Body in Medicine and Literature. Liverpool University Press.

Massey, Lyle. 2005. Pregnancy and Pathology: Picturing Childbirth in Eighteenth-Century Obstetric Atlases. The Art Bulletin, 87.1, 73-91.

Muir, Angela Joy. 2020. Midwifery and Maternity Care for Single Mothers in Eighteenth-Century Wales. Social History of Medicine, 33.2, 394–416.

Muri, Allison. 2010. Imagining Reproduction: The Politics of Reproduction, Technology and the Woman Machine. Journal of Medical Humanites, 31, 53–67. DOI

Porter, Roy. 1995. Medical Lecturing in Georgian London. The British Journal for the History of Science, 28.1, 91-99.

Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh. 2012. James Hamilton, the younger (1767–1839). Journal of the Royal College of Physicians Edinburgh, 42, 188. doi: 10.4997/JRCPE.2012.222

Tomkins, Alannah. 2011. Who Were his peers? The social and professional milieu of The provincial surgeon-apothecary in the late-eighteenth century. Journal of social history, 44 (3), 915-935.

Tsoucalas, Gregory, Antonis A. Kousoulis, Marianna Karamanou, George Androutsos. 2011. Scotland’s “wooden operator” William Smellie (1697-1763) and his counterpart in France André Levret (1703-1780): two great obstetricians and anatomists. Italian Journal of Aanatomy and Embryology, 116. 3, 14 8 -152.

Woods, Robert. 2007. Lying-in and Laying-out: Fetal Health and the Contribution of Midwifery. Bulletin of the History of Medicine, 81.4, 730-759. DOI

Woods, Robert. 2008. Dr Smellie’s Prescriptions for Pregnant Women. Medical History, 52, 257–276. Woods, Robert. 2009. Midwifery and Fetal Death. In Death before Birth: Fetal Health and Mortality in Historical Perspective. Oxford University Press. Chapter 5, 102-151.

On the Borderlands of Representation: Understanding Epilepsy

Anupama Shukla

University of Edinburgh

Tzvetan Todorov defined the act of transgression as one that not only requires the breaking of existing norms, but also as one that qualifies the norm: “the norm becomes visible—lives—only by its transgressions” (The Origin of Genres, 1976). Epilepsy, in my opinion, has come to embody one such act of transgression. As a disease, epilepsy has been at a constant bargain with sin and virtue, faith and science, myth and matter, order and chaos, morality and immorality, madness and genius, constantly transgressing the boundaries of all. As a result, the disorder has been viewed with suspicion and distrust throughout history. People with epilepsy were often seen as unfit for society and were relegated to the boundaries of social and cultural order.

In an address delivered in 1860, Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “If I wished to show a student the difficulties of getting a truth from medical experience, I would give him the history of epilepsy to read.[1]” Around 400 years before Christ, Hippocrates denounced the notion that epilepsy was a “sacred disease”. The Hippocratic physicians were followed by Galen, who attempted once again to shed the stigma around the illness and taught that the physical body has a role to play in epilepsy. However, two thousand years after these very prominent efforts to disentangle the medical and non-medical discourses, their codes of knowledge remained intertwined. The juxtaposition of these codes has now become an integral part of the cultural mythology of the disease.  

In literature, the person with epilepsy appears as a disordered figure who is neither completely inside nor outside of society. Instead, this person often exists on the borderlands of normative society. By the nineteenth century, this idea of the epileptic living on the edge of society and never being fully incorporated into it had become a recurrent trope in both medical and literary narratives. This paper will attempt to explore this trope in the works of authors such as Fyodor Dostoevsky, George Eliot, and Charles Dickens. My aim will be to examine how the continued misrepresentation of epilepsy has contributed to stigma and alienation of those suffering from the disease. The paper will also attempt to argue that despite persistent efforts, misconceptions around the disease remained pervasive in the existing codes of knowledge and systems of representation.

Bio: Anupama Shukla is a PhD student at The University of Edinburgh. She completed her Masters in English Literature from Shiv Nadar University, India, in 2017, and her Bachelors (Honours) in English Literature from the University of Delhi in 2015. Anupama has since worked as an Assistant Editor at Dorling Kindersley. Her PhD focuses on the representations of epilepsy in nineteenth century literature, and on epilepsy as a product informed by scientific, literary, as well as socio-political discourses of the time. Please feel free to get in touch with me at

[1] See Epilepsy and Related Disorders by Willian Gordon Lennox, Volume One, Page 12.

Discourses of an Eighteenth-Century Medical Controversy: Elizabeth Nihell, Tobias Smollett and the Advent of Man-Midwifery

Richard J. Whitt

The University of Nottingham

The eighteenth century witnessed a profound change in childbirth practice never seen before: male surgeons – or “man-midwives” – serving as attendants at a normal birth (a birth with no or only minor complications), and perhaps even caring for parturient women during the prenatal period. Such a domain had previously been the exclusive domain of the female midwife, although with the advent of instruments (forceps, vectis, crochet) in the late seventeenth century, the gradual encroachment of male surgeons into the birthing chamber became almost inevitable due to their self-proclaimed ability to deal with (potential) emergencies that lay beyond the scope of the traditional midwife. These concomitant developments led to a diverse array of positions among both traditional female midwives and
the newer man-midwives: pro- vs. anti-instrumentalist man-midwives, hostility (or welcomeness) towards man-midwives expressed by female midwives, hostility (or welcomeness) towards traditional female midwives expressed by man-midwives, etc.

This paper provides a critical discursive exploration of one of the most prominent textual exchanges illustrative of this medico-historical development. Midwife Elizabeth Nihell’s A Treatise on the Art of Midwifery (1760) provides a scathing assessment of this development and is highly critical of the encroachment of men into a previously gynocentric space. Although not purportedly opposed to man-midwives in principle, Nihell’s treatise is nearpolemical in its critique of medical men. Shortly after its release, an anonymous review was published in Critical Review, equally damning in tone of Nihell’s text. The author of this
review is now held to be surgeon and novelist/poet Tobias Smollett. Nihell countered this review with An Answer to the Author of the Critical Review. This exchange, although not representative of all the ideological positions at play during the period, does present an excellent site for exploring the textual-discursive practices at play in a medical controversy.

Through the lens of Critical Discourse Analysis, particularly the Discourse-Historical Approach, I will explore how entrenched ideologies and medical practices both constitute and are constituted by the key texts through which we have come to understand eighteenth century developments in midwifery practice. I will examine how broader features such as textual and argumentative structure, as well as more fine-grained linguistic choices (such as how particular practitioners are referred to, or what kinds of stance expressions occur), play a role in how both women and man-midwives construed their own professional and textual
identities. The discussion will be primarily qualitative, although quantitative possibilities facilitated by corpus analysis will also be given some attention.


van Dijk, Teun A. 2011. Discourse, knowledge, power and politics: Towards critical epistemic discourse analysis. In Christopher Hart (ed.), Critical Discourse Studies in Context and Cognition. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins, 28-63.

Fairclough, Norman. 2010. Critical Discourse Analysis: The Critical Study of Language. London: Routledge.

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van Leeuwen, Theo. 1995. The representation of social actors. In Carmen Rosa Caldas-Coulthard and Malcolm Coulthard (eds), Texts and Practices: Readings in Critical Discourse Analysis. London: Routledge, 32-70.

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Pitt, Susan. 1997. Midwifery and medicine: Gendered knowledge in the practice of delivery. In Hilary Marland and Anne Marie Rafferty (eds), Midwives, Society and Childbirth: Debates and Controversies in the Modern Period. London: Taylor & Francis, 218-231.

Reisigl, Martin. 2017. The discourse-historical approach. In John Flowerdew and John E. Richardson (eds), The Routledge Handbook of Critical Discourse Studies. London: Routledge, 44-59.

Reisigl, Martin and Ruth Wodak. 2001. Discourse and Discrimination: Rhetorics of Racism and Antisemitism. London: Routledge.

Reisigl, Martin and Ruth Wodak. 2016. The discourse-historical approach (DHA). In Ruth Wodak and Michael Meyer (eds), Methods of Critical Discourse Studies. 3rd ed. Los Angeles: Sage, 23-61.

Wilson, Adrian. 1995. The Making of Man-Midwifery: Childbirth in England, 1660-1770. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Licence: Public Domain Mark

Credit: People using Anios disinfectant to destroy microbes representing infectious diseases. Colour lithograph by G. de Trye-Maison, ca. 1910.

Wellcome Collection.

Panel 4: Health and Microstructure

From “I felt his pulse” to “this reflex alteration in heart-rate” Depersonalization as a conceptual strategy in medical writing from 1700 to 1900. A corpus-based approach

Georg Marko

University of Graz, Austria

In Jewson’s model (1976), the history of medicine from 1700 to 1900 is divided into three periods. 18th century’s bedside medicine was still strongly based on doctors’ interpretations of patients’ accounts. In the 19th century, it was replaced by hospital medicine and later by laboratory medicine, approaches backgrounding patients’ own experience of their conditions, relying more on objective symptoms found in or on the body (hospital medicine) or in substances separated from the body (laboratory medicine) (Blaxter 2010: 32-33).

While Jewson’s stages are more concerned with medicine as a practice, such developments are grounded in changing thought-styles – to use Taavitsainen and Pahta’s (2010) term – in the health domain more generally. Thought-styles associated with the aforementioned shifts can therefore also be expected to become manifest in medical writing of the time, especially in medical articles, a genre emerging as the main medium for representing new scientific knowledge around 1700.

The conceptual strategy (a component of a thought-style) underlying the above-mentioned shifts is depersonalization, which means abstracting aspects of health from people practicing medicine or affected by conditions. Depersonalization involves foregrounding categories rather than concrete persons (deindividualization), (body) parts rather than whole human beings (fragmentation), and seeing health-related phenomena as entities rather than as processes, thus backgrounding human involvement (reification).

This paper examines to what extent, how (i.e. involving which of the aforementioned substrategies), and when there are noticeable changes in depersonalization in medical articles from Britain and the United States from 1700 to 1900, and whether we can relate results to the shifts in medicine described above or to further sociocultural trends in the health domain during this period.

The approach taken is corpus-based (critical) discourse analysis (e.g. Mautner 1995, Baker 2006, Baker et al. 2008). It also owes a lot – conceptually and methodologically – to the Corpus of Early English Medical Writing project (Taavitsainen/Pahto 2004, 2010, Taavitsainen/Hiltunen 2019) and to Douglas Biber et al.’s research on diachronic changes in scientific writing (Biber/Clark 2002, Biber/Grieve/Iberri 2010).

In its discourse analytical orientation, the paper examines particular morphosyntactic and lexical processes and elements contributing to depersonalization, including constructions that background human participation (such as nominalization and compounding – see the paper’s main title) and the representation of certain lexical fields (such as “body” or “diseases”). In its corpus analytical orientation, the paper looks for these elements and processes in a large collection of medical articles, describing their occurrences and co-texts qualitatively and quantitatively.

The corpus used is a self-compiled collection of medical articles from British and American scientific journals (e.g. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, New England Journal of Medicine, Lancet), each year between 1700 and 1900 being represented by one text. The overall size of the corpus is 500,000 words. Results are calculated for each decade and are compared so that diachronic changes can be traced. Comparative corpora of articles in biology and articles in physics and chemistry (self-compiled according to the same principles) are used where appropriate to see whether results are medicine-specific or part of general developments in scientific thinking.


Baker, Paul (2006). Using Corpora in Discourse Analysis. London & New York: continuum.

Baker, Paul/Costas Gabrielatos/Majid Khosravinik/Michał Krzyżanowski/Tony McEnery/Ruth Wodak (2008). “A useful methodological synergy? Combining critical discourse analysis and corpus linguistics to examine discourses of refugees and asylum seekers in the UK press.” Discourse & Society 19(3). 273-305.

Biber, Douglas/Jack Grieve/Gina Iberri-Shea (2010). “Noun phrase modification.” In: Günter Rohdenburg/Julia Schlüter (eds.). One Language, Two Grammars? Differences between British and American English. Cambridge: CUP. 182-193.

Biber, Douglas/Victoria Clark (2002). “Historical shifts in modification patterns with complex noun phrase structures. How long can you go without a verb?” In: Teresa Fanego/Javier Pérez-Guerra/María José López-Couso  (eds.). English Historical Syntax and Morphology. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins. 43-66.

Blaxter, Midred (2010). Health. 2nd edition. Cambridge: Polity.

Jewson, Nicholas D. (1976). “The Disappearance of the Sick Man from Medical Cosmology 1770-1870.” Sociology 10. 225-244.

(Hardt-)Mautner, Gerlinde (1995). “‘Only Connect.’ Critical Discourse Analysis and Corpus Linguistics.” UCREL (University Centre for Computer Corpus Research on Language) Technical Papers 6: Lancaster University. [Online] (15 January 2023).

Mautner, Gerlinde (2009). “Checks and Balances: How Corpus Linguistics can Contribute to CDA.” In: Ruth Wodak/Michael Meyer (eds.). Methods of Critical Discourse Analysis. 2nd edition. Los Angeles [etc.]: Sage. 122-143.

Taavitsainen, Irma/Päivi Pahta (eds.) (2004). Medical and Scientific Writing in Late Medieval English. Cambridge: CUP.

Taavitsainen, Irma/Päivi Pahta (eds.) (2010). Early Modern English Medical Texts. Corpus Description and Studies. Amsterdam: John Benjamins

Taavitsainen, Irma/Turo Hiltunen (eds.) (2019). Late Modern English Medical Texts. Writing Medicine in the Eighteenth Century. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Philological and Lexicographic Topics in Thomas Linacre’s Medical Discourse

Daniela Marrone

Università degli Studi di Padova

In the prefaces to his Latin translations from Galen, Thomas Linacre introduces his work mainly through conventional expressions and stereotyped themes, but some of his statements allow to elaborate interesting considerations on the narrow connection that he recognised between medicine and literary endeavour.

Linacre rendered a service to the hole medical community providing his colleagues with the translation of some Galen’s treatises hereto circulating in Medieval barbarous and untrustworthy adaptations. Nevertheless it should be noted that in his prefaces Linacre presents the results of his translating work as a useful service to the literature and not exclusively to medicine: the reader, he claims, could add to his literary interests the new texts of Galen, so that it is clear that the English physician doesn’t perceive the disciplinary boundary between Literature and Medicine. Indeed, he implies a close relationship between the two fields of study, when he leads the lector to believe that his efforts fall within the ambit of “humanae litterae”. Linacre’s priority doesn’t seem to ensure progress to medicine (discipline which he generally doesn’t name), but rather to graft his translating commitment into the ever more luxuriant plant of humanistic philology. As further proof of it, in his prefaces some linguistic and philological aspects of his work are presented: among these the appropriation of philological topics as well as the emphasis on the lexicographic effort of his translations. Sure enough, Linacre denounces the general confusion in the field of medical terminology and lets know he attempted to create a specialised medical vocabulary. While his translations received immediate positive feedback and enjoyed wide circulation, his effort to clarify the “language of medicine” and to free Galen’s “veritas” from ambiguity don’t stimulate any reaction by contemporary scholars.

Bacterial viruses, adventitious fungi and sporiferous Anthrax bacilli – adjective noun constructions in texts from microbe hunters in 19th century Royal Society publications

Katrin Menzel

Saarland University

This paper builds on an earlier paper by the same author (Menzel 2022) that outlines how the Royal Society Corpus (RSC, Kermes et al. 2016, Menzel et al. 2021) can be used for sociopragmatic and lexico-grammatical studies that contribute to a broader understanding of the history of medical discourse and the structure and development of medical research articles published in English. In this paper, the use of adjective noun constructions is analysed in 19th century Royal Society publications from the RSC that contributed to the development of scientific microbiology. These early microbiological research papers in the RSC opened the door to a nascent scientific discipline. Particular mechanisms of meaning construal lead to the increased usage of suffixed adjectives derived from verbs or nouns (e.g. sporiferous), compound adjectives with participles (acid-forming) or adjectives with negation prefix (non-motile) used as noun premodifiers. The internal structure of such adjective noun constructions used in the 19th century research papers laid the foundation for an ongoing specialization of terminology in the field of microbiology during Present-day English, e.g. the development of discipline-specific noun phrase patterns or multiword terms containing the above-mentioned adjectives types in combination with additional affixes, lexical morphemes or abbreviations as in the 20th RSC examples antimicrobial agents, non-N[1]-fixingstrainsofbacteria, PV[2]-related lesions, LAC[3]-virus-infected  brains or, Epstein-Barr-virus-infected B cells. Although morphologically complex nouns in this construction also become more numerous, lexical information is increasingly encoded in such adjective premodifiers. This paper will demonstrate how adjective noun constructions in the early microbiological texts in the RSC from the 19th century increased in complexity and became the basis for the formation of further word formation patterns that allowed an even higher compression of information into multiword-expressions and single-word units.


Kermes, Hannah, Stefania Degaetano-Ortlieb, Ashraf Khamis, Jörg Knappen and Elke Teich (2016). The Royal Society Corpus: From uncharted data to corpus. In: Proceedings of the 10th International Conference on Language Resources and Evaluation (LREC 2016). Portorož, Slovenia: European Language Resources Association, 1928–1931.

Menzel, Katrin (2022). Medical discourse in Late Modern English: Insights from the Royal Society Corpus. In Hiltunen, T., & Taavitsainen, I. (eds.). Corpus pragmatic studies on the history of medical discourse. (Pragmatics & Beyond New Series; Vol. 330). Amsterdam: John Benjamins, p. 79-104.

Katrin Menzel, Jörg Knappen, Elke Teich (2021). Generating linguistically relevant metadata for the Royal Society Corpus. In: Challenges in combining structured and unstructured data in corpus development, Special issue of Research in Corpus Linguistics 9/1, Ed. Tanja Säily, Jukka Tyrkkö, Asociación Española de Lingüística de Corpus (AELINCO), DOI 10.32714/ricl.09.01.02, 1–18.

[1] N = nitrogen

[2] PV = papillomavirus

[3] LAC = La Crosse

Somnambulism in Medical Dictionaries (1719-1775)

Anna Anselmo

University of Ferrara

This paper analyses medical dictionary definitions of sleep disorders in the timeframe 1684-1775. The dictionaries selected for analysis are A physical dictionary (1684), Lexicon physico-medicum or, A new physical dictionary (1719), A medicinal dictionary (1743), Dictionarium medicum universale: or, a new medicinal dictionary (1749), and A new medical dictionary; or, general repository (1775) (McConchie 2009). Sleep disorders, specifically parasomnias, have had diverse lexical designations in medical history, e.g. somnambulism, noctambulation, coma-vigil, somno-vigilia, oneirodynia (Umanath, Sarezky, and Finger 2011); the aim here is, therefore, not to identify a single lemma, but to map a protean, fuzzy conceptual field in medical history, and, consequently, to identify several lemmas and/or word forms to which dictionary entries defining sleep disorders correspond.

The paper is divided into three parts: part one offers a short introduction to the selected medical dictionaries and presents the rationale for the research aim stated above, which is rooted in previous work on the conceptualisation and lexicalisation of sleep disorders in medical books between 1769 and 1815 (Anselmo 2023). Part two details the content of and the method for the analysis: relevant lemmas and word forms are listed, lexicological and lexicographical information regarding the structure of the entries is detailed. In part three, the different definitions are reported and a contrastive analysis carried out with a view to offering snapshots of the evolution of the conceptual field of sleep disorders.

Through the analysis, the paper purports to gauge conceptual and semantic leitmotifs and changes, and it offers a range of diverse lexical designations of sleep disorders in time.


Anselmo, Anna. “Somnambulism (1769-1815): Medicine, Terminology, Ontology”. In The Language of Science: Proceedings of the CUSVE 2021 Conference, ed. by Marco Canani, Enrichetta Soccio, and Tania Zulli. Chieti: Solfanelli, 2023, forthcoming.

McConchie, Roderick W. “‘Propagating what the Ancients taught and the moderns improved’: The Sources of George Motherby’s A New Medical Dictionary; or, a General Repository of Physic, 1775”. In Selected Proceedings of the 2008 Symposium on New Approaches in English Historical Lexis (HEL-LEX 2), ed. by Roderick W. McConchie, Alpo Honkapohja, and Jukka Tyrkko. Somerville: Cascadilla Press, 2009, pp. 123-133.

Umanath, Sharda, Daniel Sarezky, and Stanley Finger. “Sleepwalking through History: Medicine, Arts, and Courts of Law”. Journal of the History of the Neurosciences 20, 2011: 253-276.

Credit: Ancient herbalists and scholars of medicinal lore (Galen, Pliny, Hippocrates etc.); and Venus and Adonis in the gardens of Adonis. Woodcut, 1532.

Panel 5: Other Perspectives

Eugenics and racial medical discourse in scientific journals during Fascism in Italy

Anna La Torre

University of Milan, Italy. Universitat Autonoma Barcelona, Spain

During Italian Fascism (1922-1943), the control of information and the language policy, understood as laws and rules intended to achieve the planned language change in societies[i], were the main vehicle for propaganda in the dictatorship[ii]. Moreover, the attempt to create a scientific rationale for the fascist project of building the “New Italian” (Italiano Nuovo) produced a significant specialized literature with a particular vocabulary[iii].

The aim of this research is to analyse articles about eugenics and racial medicine in journals of the Official organ of the National Fascist Doctors’ Union: “La Federazione Medica” (Medical federation 1921-1931) and “Le Forze Sanitarie” (Medical Forces 1932-1943) with the specific purpose of elaborating and evaluating the “scientific” use of racial medical words. In addition, this study elaborates features presented in “La Difesa della Razza” (The defence of race 1938-1943), published by the Ministry of Popular Culture, and “L’infermiera Italiana” (The Italian nurse 1935-1943) the official Journal of the National Union of Registered Nurses; in order to highlight both the propaganda and the medical communication culture.

This analysis of photographs and words used in articles, such as topics, has showed that since 1922, and after the international conference held in Milan in 1923 on eugenics, the popularisation of this “ancient and young science”[iv] became increasingly present in selected papers.

Initially eugenics is never associated with racial medicine, in fact, one article expressly mentions that “eugenics as a science does not have as its objective the elimination of a race”[v]. It is emphasised as a social science, often linked to religion, sport, emigration and the study of diseases. It is also exalted in the manner of Hygiene, as a preventive science against alcoholism, pathologies of the nervous system, mental illnesses, constitutional diseases and disorderly conducts.

This form of medical communication and popularisation built up a racist rhetoric and vocabulary over the years, which accustomed Italians into thinking that the government was committed to a policy of health care and protection.

These years of preparation and communication of a “positive eugenics science”[vi] in favour of public health led to the implementation and unconditional acceptance by Italians of the racial laws in 1938 and the deportations to extermination camps in 1943.

This opens up to new opportunities for studies, also compared to recent publications, assessed by how much medical discourse could help public opinions and political choices.

[i]Baldauf, R. and Kaplan, R. (2005). Language planning and policy in Europe. Clevedon Multilingual matters.

[ii] Salustri, S. (2008) Orientare l’opinione pubblica: mezzi di comunicazione e propaganda politica nell’Italia fascista. Italia: Edizioni Unicopli.

[iii]Cassata,F and O’Loughlin, E. (2011). Building the new man: eugenics, racial science and genetics in twentieth-century Italy. Budapest Central European university press.

[iv] Fioretti, A. (1922) Lo Scopo dell’Eugenetica, La Federazione Medica: bollettino della federazione degli ordini dei medici, III/ 5, 532-35

[v] Moretti, F. (1923- II E.F.) Eugenetica nova scienza La Federazione Medica: bollettino della federazione degli ordini dei medici, VI/ 5, 134-145

[vi] Maiocchi, R. (1999) Scienza italiana e razzismo fascista. Firenze: La Nuova Italia.

Evidential Strategies in Ancient vs. Early Modern Medical Discourse

Theresa Roth1 and Gohar Schnelle2

[1] Universität Marburg and [2] Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

At all times, medical texts aimed at gathering and communicating knowledge of effective procedures to improve the state of health. In order to ensure credibility to certain audiences, reference to the source of knowledge is a necessary function to be expressed. The amount, textual placement, content, and form of evidence claims can be assumed to go hand in hand with the dominant conception of valid epistemic approaches.
Linguistic evidentiality is a functional-conceptual category characterized by the explicit encoding of the source of information or knowledge which the speaker claims to have made use of for producing the primary proposition of the utterance (cf. Diewald & Smirnova 2010:1; this core definition is shared by most scholars).
A common classification of source of information types prominently distinguishes direct (e.g. visually attested) and indirect sources, the latter being further subdivided in reported information vs. inference-based information resulting from logical reasoning (cf. Willet 1988: 57):

(1) Combination of adverbial and sentential evidential strategies with direct (visual) information source (Galen, De locis afectis II, 2,4)

γίνεται μὲν γὰρ ἡ νάρκη καὶ διὰ ψῦξιν, ὡς ὁρᾶται φανερῶς ἐπί τε | τῶν (…)
‘For the numbness, however, also arises because of an exposure to cold, as can be clearly seen in those who are (…)’

(2) Sentential evidential strategy with direct (visual) information source (Henckel, Flora Saturnizans, 1722)

hieraus sehen wir unter anderem daſz ein pfund frisches kraut nicht den dritten Theil duͤrres gebe
From this we see, among other things, that a pound of fresh herb does not give the third part of the herb’

We analyse evidential strategies of medical texts in a broad sense, that is, from sentence adverbials (cf. example 1 φανερῶς ), such as “obviously”, “necessarily”, to larger units such as references to (historical) authorities or to the speaker’s own observations or inferences as ὁρᾶται (example 1) and sehen wir in example 2 (Axel-Tober & Müller 2017). The focus lies on the triangulation of those linguistic strategies with mentioned informational sources. To trace diachronic change in medical evidential strategies, we take a comparative approach, combining quantitative corpus-based methods with qualitative textual analysis. To account for the intertextual and scientific influence of ancient medicine in early modern Europe, we start with a survey of evidential strategies in the medical treatises of Galen (2nd-3rd century AD)., which will be diachronically tracked through a variationist annotation in the historical German Register-in-Diachronic-German-Science-Corpus (RIDGES, Lüdeling et al 2023), which consists of 73 medical texts on herbology dating from 1482-1914. Through a systematic comparison between evidential strategies in Galen’s texts and the Early Modern German texts of the Ridges-Corpus we will present insights into the (1) historical development of epistemological concepts and their linguistic representation (2) reflexes of intertextuality.

Results will be discussed in the context of intercultural transfer of specialized registers, which is tightly bound to the paradigm shift from medieval Scholasticism to empirical science as a result of the Enlightment (Whitt 2017, Katschning 2018, Schnelle et al 2022).


Aikhenvald, Alexandra Y. 2004: Evidentiality. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Diewald, Gabriele & Smirnova, Elena (eds.). 2010: Linguistic Realisation of Evidentiality in the Languages of Europe. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton.

Gärtner, Florian. 2015: Galeni De locis affectis I–II, CMG V 6,1,1, Berlin/Boston: De Gruyter.

Katschning, Gerhard (2018): Ein kulturgeschichtlicher Blick auf die Anfänge der deutschen (Wissenschafts-)Sprache an den frühen Universitäten im Habsburgerreich. In: Jürgen Schiewe und Michael Prinz (Hg.): Vernakuläre Wissenschaftskommunikation. Beiträge zur Entstehung und Frühgeschichte der modernen deutschen Wissenschaftssprachen: De Gruyter, S. 189–204.

Lüdeling, Anke; Odebrecht, Carolin; Krause, Thomas; Schnelle, Gohar; Fischer, Catharina (2023): RIDGES Herbology (Version 9.0). Online verfügbar unter [Titel anhand dieser DOI in Citavi-Projekt übernehmen].

Schnelle, Gohar; Odebrecht, Carolin; Lüdeling, Anke; Perlitz, Laura; Fisher, Catharina (2022): Chapter 7. “Die Blumenzeit der Frau”. In: Turo Hiltunen und Irma Taavitsainen (Hg.): Corpus Pragmatic Studies on the History of Medical Discourse, Bd. 330. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company (Pragmatics & Beyond New Series), S. 153–176.

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Licence: Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

Credit: Cover: Seamen's Hospital booklet.

Wellcome Collection.

Panel 6: Health and Colonialism

Medicalizing the body and the locale: Kala azar and disease thinking at British India’s northeast frontier, 1824–1900

Bikash Sarma

O.P. Jindal Global University, India

The paper makes an inquiry into the genealogy of disease thinking in nineteenth century British India’s north east frontier, following the first Anglo-Burmese war (1824−26). It attends to the medical discourses produced through ‘field’ based medical topographies, and the subsequent carving out of a pathological space at the frontier. Although the social, cultural, and medical categories enunciated in the medical topographies were questioned in the era of laboratory medicine, they continued to influence medical texts until the last quarter of the nineteenth century. This marked ambivalence in the medical discourses will be demonstrated in the paper through the debates in the second half of the nineteenth century located in the figure of kala azar at the frontier (visceral leishmaniasis), a disease that was geographically localized and denominated as ‘Assam fever’ in medical textbooks of the century. The objective is to further the ‘Assam Fever’ story by investigating how the disease was embedded in locality, race, and upon native bodies in colonial Assam.

The paper further locates kala azar in its troubled ontology with the broader paradigm of research on malaria. To do so, the intellectual exchanges and contestations within pan-tropical networks, and between the scientific communities in eastern India and at metropolitan centres in London and Liverpool will be analysed. Here, the primary focus will be on the exchanges between Leonard Rogers and G.M. Giles of the Indian Medical Service (IMS), and Hayman Thornhill of Ceylon Medical Service on the one hand; and anxious Ronald Ross of IMS investigating kala azar in Assam and his intellectual mentor on ‘mosquito theory’ Patrick Manson, on the other.

Key words: Kala azar; medical topography; Garo; Assam; medical research.

A fresh start on the other side of the world! A multidisciplinary view of the establishment and early history of a new British colony, through the health logs of the voyage and the health of early migrant settlers

Matthew Brook O’Donnell1, Alan H. Brook2, and Angela Gurr2

[1] Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania
[2] University of Adelaide

The aims of this paper are to present an overview of the establishment of the colony of South Australia by the British parliament, describe the development of a corpus of the formal logs of the appointed doctors on the ships in which the migrants sailed and an investigation of the health of a group of early settlers.

The concept of developing new colonies for the emigration of poor British labourers was proposed by Edward Gibbon Wakefield in 1829. It was then shown by the voyages of Sturt (1830) and Barker (1831), along the coasts and rivers of southern Australia that this area would be suitable for European settlement. In London in 1833, Robert Gouger formed the South Australia Association to campaign for commercial backing for the concept of a new colony. In 1834, the British Parliament passed the South Australian Colonisation Act and the following year the South Australia Company was established. Recruitment of suitable working-class labourers and tradesmen with their families was undertaken using the attraction of ‘assisted’ passages sponsored by the Colonial Commissioners. The initial voyages had high rates of mortality and morbidity, leading a parliamentary report and press attention (Humanitatis 1850). In response, the surgeon-superintendents worked under strict regulations. There were also improvements in sanitation and the nutrition supplied during the voyage which the surgeon had the power to enforce. They were required to keep records of the age, sex and cause and date of death of infants, children and adults. At the end of the voyage they were required to submit these daily logs, which were scrutinised closely if there had been high mortality (Haines 2005; Foxhall 2012). We are developing a corpus of these logs, along with journals kept by emigrants during the journey and other records containing health information for linked linguistic analysis. We present initial findings on the nature of the medical discourse in this context with a view to the use of the historical record to model disease in early migrant settlers (see Paterson, et. al. 2013).

Evidence of the health status of these supported immigrants has been derived from newspaper articles, coroner’s reports, parish records and the skeletal remains of a cemetery. While some tradesmen and even labourers flourished building businesses and acquiring land for some of these early settlers migration did not end well. The cemetery of St Mary’s Anglican Church, 8 km south of the centre of Adelaide, has been investigated. The burial plots reflect the diverse social classes foreseen in the 1834 Act. There is a ‘free ground’ area of the cemetery used for the skeletal remains of those who died without funds to pay for their burial. From the parish records and observation the gravestones, in the first two decades of the colony approximately 80% of the interments were in this free ground. Investigation of the skeletons from this area have shown signs of the effects of heavy labour, malnutrition, and disease. The dental findings indicate these individuals suffered from poor oral health of a sufficient degree to be a factor in poor general health. The dentitions of the children showed marked developmental defects associated with episodes of severe illnesses, reflecting the complex systems and network interactions during development.

In conclusion, all three components of this study contribute to the understanding of medical discourse in the context of 19th Century migration from Europe to Australia. Further they indicate the complex dynamic interactions of different motivation with altruism, political gain and commercial interests influencing each stage of the evolution of South Australia.

Foxhall, K. (2012), Health, Medicine, and the Sea: Australian Voyages, c.1815-1860. Manchester, Manchester University Press.

Haines, R. (2005), Doctors at Sea: Emigrant Voyages to Colonial Australia, Palgrave Macmillan.

Humanitatis, A. (1850), ‘Surgeon-Superintendents of Emigrant Ships’, The Lancet (55) Issue 1383, p. 284

Paterson B.J., Kirk, M.D., Cameron, A.S., D’Este, C. & Durrheim, D.N. (2013). ‘Historical data and modern methods reveal insights in measles epidemiology: a retrospective closed cohort study’, BMJ Open doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2012-002033