“In the Camp and on the March: How Armies Shaped Public Health History in the Premodern World”
Guy Geltner (UvA)
8 March 2018, 15:00–17:00 – VOC-zaal, Bushuis
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.
The lecture is free and open to the public.