New Publication by Claire Weeda: ‘Reviewing Conduct Books: Galenic Medicine and the “Civilising Process” in Western European Households c.1100–1300’

C. Weeda, ‘Reviewing Conduct Books: Galenic Medicine and the “Civilising Process” in Western European Households c.1100–1300’, in Christopher M. Woolgar (ed.), The Elite Household in England, 1100-1550: Proceedings of the 2016 Harlaxton Symposium (Donington, 2018), 167-184.

Abstract: In western Europe conduct books offering advice to young students and aristocrats on how to behave in a social environment began to appear in the twelfth century. They played a substantial role in guiding and governing the behaviour of members of the elite and urban households and feature in historical discussions as an important accelerator of as well as testimony to the so-called civilising process in western European court society, structuring and disciplining the social behaviour of members of the body politic who were trying to gain access to power. However, as this chapter argues, an overlooked aspect of these fresh conduct manuals, which partly drew on the Latin Catonic tradition of teaching morals and manners to young students, was their concerns over health and hygiene. Engaging with the newly introduced medical theories in Graeco-Arabic texts translated in Spain, Sicily, southern Italy and Byzantium from the late eleventh century, clerics in the centres of learning such as Salerno, Paris or Bologna absorbed medical knowledge about healthy behaviour as part of the staple education, thereupon infusing it into manuals of conduct written for young men aspiring to be prudentes, good citizens. This chapter examines a number of these educational tracts from the twelfth- and early thirteenth-century and the presence of such arguments of health and hygiene in them, arguing they attest an understanding that health, hygiene and social status were intertwined.

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