The fifth lecture in the History Research Seminar series will be given by Guy Geltner (University of Amsterdam), entitled 'In the Camp and on the March: How Armies Shaped Public Health History in the Premodern World'.
Public health is widely viewed as a modern pursuit, enabled especially by the emergence of democratic nation states, centralized bureaucracies and advanced medicine. While social, urban and religious historians have begun chipping away at the entrenched dichotomy between pre/modernity that this view implies, evidence for community-level prophylactics in earlier societies also emerges from a group of somewhat unexpected sources, namely military manuals. Texts composed for (and often by) army leaders in medieval Latin Europe, Byzantium and other premodern civilizations spotlight the importance of preventative healthcare well before democratization, mass urbanization and biomedicine, thus paving a new path for historicizing biopolitics from a transregional or even global perspective. Moreover, at least in the context of medieval Europe, military manuals also demonstrate the enduring appeal of Hippocratic and Galenic medicine and how that tradition continued to shape the routines and material culture of vulnerable communities such as armies, centuries after their original articulation.
*Please note this replaces the previously announced presentation by Angela Ki Che Leung on Premodern Chinese Health History, which is now cancelled.
This lecture is free of charge and open to the public. For the agenda with all History Research Seminars, click here.