#ShelfieSunday: ‘A plaine and easie waie to remedie a horse’: Equine Medicine in Early Modern England

Louise Hill Curth, ‘A plaine and easie waie to remedie a horse’: Equine Medicine in Early Modern England (Leiden: Brill, 2013).

'A plaine and easie waie to remedie a horse'Review by Janice Gunther Martin

Louise Hill Curth’s ‘A plaine and easie waie to remedie a horse’: Equine Medicine in Early Modern England is the first modern study in English of early modern equine medicine. It follows from Curth’s earlier scholarship examining early modern veterinary medicine in general.She applies current methodologies in the history of medicine to her subject; in particular, instead of dismissing past medical ideas and practices as barbaric and ignorant, she seeks to understand them on their own terms. Though the ideas and practices in this book might be unfamiliar to those outside the fields of the history of science and medicine, the clarity of writing makes the material accessible and interesting to non-specialists.

The book begins with an overview of ancient and medieval equine medicine before turning to the structure of equine medical practice in early modern England. Medical historians sometimes apply the term “medical marketplace” to describe the multiplicity of healing options available to people in this period. Curth extended the concept to animal healing in a 2002 article in which she coined the term “veterinary marketplace,” which she continues to use here.2 She accordingly explores the different people charged with equine upkeep and healing, including members of the London Company of Farriers, horse-leeches, and servants. The book’s main chronological scope ends with the institutionalization of veterinary education in England with the founding of the Royal Veterinary College in 1791.

Her exploration of early modern medicine on its own terms is evident in the book’s middle chapters on medical beliefs and practices. Like other recent scholars, she attends to the connections between astrology and medicine in this period and the logic thereof. Due to the importance of the “non-naturals” for preventing ailments in early modern medical theory, she explains how these factors applied to advice about horses. These included issues like air (by extension, the general environment), diet, and exercise. The book also provides an overview of the diagnosis and treatment of ailments, including pharmaceutical remedies and surgery. It concludes with two chapters on the dissemination of equine medical information through oral, manuscript, and printed means.

Curth writes that her purpose is to “open up a new area of academic interest and study” in the “virtually unexplored area” of the history of early modern veterinary medicine (p. 6). Indeed, the book contains many fascinating details about past equine medical care, such as advice about stable construction, the commercialization of equine medications, and the connections between bloodletting and astrology. It accordingly prompts many questions for further research, facilitated by Curth’s clarity regarding her source base. For instance, the seventh chapter “Oral and Manuscript Culture” includes summaries of household manuscript collections containing horse remedies digitized by the Wellcome Library. She offers some comparisons between these household books and printed remedies; additional research using such manuscript evidence will hopefully provide more clues about the most common equine ailments, the cures used in practice, and their relationship to treatments in printed sources.

In addition, the book invites further investigation about the similarities and differences between human and equine ailments and treatments in this period, especially since Curth relates her work to the “One Medicine” movement (more recently coined “One Health”). This initiative seeks to promote collaboration between researchers across medical and ecological disciplines, in part to better understand the relationship between human and animal health and the environment. Historians like Curth have shown that past medical cultures (like that of early modern England) did not exhibit as sharp a divide between human and animal medicine as exists today, and operated with a more holistic concept of medicine.

Curth’s book is a helpful and engaging overview of early modern English equine care for specialists and non-specialists alike, and provides an important framework and foundation for further research.

1 See especially Louise Hill Curth, The Care of Brute Beasts: A Social and Cultural Study of Veterinary Medicine in Early Modern England (Leiden: Brill, 2010).

Curth, “The Care of the Brute Beast: Animals and the Seventeenth-Century Medical Market-place,” Social History of Medicine 15, no. 3 (December 2002): 375-392. https://doi.org/10.1093/shm/15.3.375.

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#SourceSaturday: Veterinary Medicine Historical Collection, Michigan State University

By Janice Gunther Martin

The Veterinary Medicine Historical Collection at Michigan State University contains bountiful resources for anyone interested in the history of equine medicine, along with veterinary medicine in general. The collection includes over 1,400 manuscripts and books, dating as far back as the fifteenth century, making it one of the largest collections of its kind in the United States.

Equine-related works are especially well-represented in the Collection. It mainly focuses on books published or written before 1800, with particular strength in eighteenth-century British texts. Highlights include:

  • A fifteenth-century manuscript of Giordano Ruffo’s Libro marischalcie equorum;
  • The only known first edition of Francisco de la Reyna’s Libro de albeyteria (1547);
  • The first illustrated edition of Marcus Fugger’s Von der Gestüterey (1584), on horse breeding.

You can see more examples from the collection in their online exhibit “The History of Equine Anatomy in Veterinary Medicine.”

The Veterinary Medicine Historical Collection is housed in MSU’s Special Collections, recently renovated and in the main library on campus. A partial catalogue of the Collection is available online, also available in PDF form; for all holdings, see the MSU Library Catalogue. It is possible to register and request works to examine before your visit. They are open nearly every day of the week during the academic year.

For more information:

Michigan State Special Collections, East Lansing, MI

Staff Directory

Hours

Francisco de la Reyna, Libro de albeyteria, 1547

Carlo Ruini, Dell’ anotomia et dell’ infirmita del cavallo, 1598


Georg Simon Winter, Trattato nuovo … del far la razza di cavalli, 1672

 

The Compleat Horse Doctor, 17__?

#SourceSaturday: Recent English-Language Equine Veterinary Histories

By Janice Gunther Martin

During the month of April, the Equine History Collective will be featuring posts related to the history of veterinary medicine. If you are interested in submitting a book review, let us know at equinehistory@gmail.com.

The bibliography below lists recent histories of veterinary medicine in English, with a focus on works at least partially devoted to equids. The list is by no means exhaustive, so if you have found certain books or articles to be especially helpful (including those in other languages), please add your comments below!

Adams, J. N. Pelagonius and Latin Veterinary Terminology in the Roman Empire. Leiden: Brill, 1995.

Alkhateeb Shehada, Housni. “Donkeys and Mules in Arabic Veterinary Sources from the Mamlūk Period (7th–10th/13th–16thCentury).” Al-Masaq 20, no. 2 (September 2008): 207–214. https://doi.org/10.1080/09503110802283424.

———. Mamluks and Animals: Veterinary Medicine in Medieval Islam. Leiden: Brill, 2012.

Brown, Karen and Daniel Gilfoyle, eds. Healing the Herds: Disease, Livestock Economies, and the Globalization of Veterinary Medicine. Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press, 2010.

Buell, Paul D., Timothy May, and David Ramey. “Greek and Chinese Horse Medicine: Déjà vu All Over Again.” Sudhoffs Archiv 94, no. 1 (2010): 31–56. http://www.jstor.org/stable/20778426.

Curth, Louise Hill. The Care of Brute Beasts: A Social and Cultural Study of Veterinary Medicine in Early Modern England. Leiden: Brill, 2010.

———. ‘A plaine and easie waie to remedie a horse’: Equine Medicine in Early Modern England. Leiden: Brill, 2013.

Jones, Susan D. Valuing Animals: Veterinarians and their Patients in Modern America. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003.

McCabe, Anne. A Byzantine Encyclopedia of Horse Medicine: The Sources, Compilation, and Transmission of the Hippiatrica. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.

Michell, A. R., ed. History of the Healing Professions: Parallels between Veterinary and Medical History. Vol. 3 of The Advancement of Veterinary Science: The Bicentenary Symposium Series, edited by A. R. Michell. Wallingford: CAB International, 1993.

Mishra, Saurabh. Beastly Encounters of the Raj: Livelihoods, Livestock and Veterinary Health in North India, 1790–1920. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2015.

Mitsuda, Tatsuya. “Entangled Histories: German Veterinary Medicine, c.1770–1900.” Medical History 61, no. 1 (January 2017): 25–47. https://doi.org/10.1017/mdh.2016.99.

Woods, Abigail. “From One Medicine to Two: The Evolving Relationship between Human and Veterinary Medicine in England, 1791–1835.” Bulletin of the History of Medicine 91, no. 3 (Fall 2017): 494–523. https://doi.org/10.1353/bhm.2017.0058.

Woods, Abigail and Stephen Matthews. “‘Little, if at all, Removed from the Illiterate Farrier or Cow-leech’: The English Veterinary Surgeon, c1860–1885, and the Campaign for Veterinary Reform.” Medical History 54, no. 1 (January 2010): 29–54. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0025727300004300.

 

Early Modern Collections In Use

   This past weekend the Huntington hosted the Early Modern Collections in Use conference. The Huntington conferences are always delightful and productive and this was no exception. First, I suggest checking out the Huntington blog and the hashtag.Screen Shot 2017-09-17 at 5.27.34 PM

   Most of the papers, unsurprisingly but still wonderfully, made explicit reference to items housed at the Huntington. Given the subject, non-textual sources were well represented. And, as often happens with these narrower well curated topics, each speaker was able to draw comparisons and connections with prior papers. So, not only was there an assortment of great papers, but throughout the two days there was active discussion. In effect, this became about the production of knowledge– much as many presenters mentioned as a goal of early modern visits to collections.

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   I was, of course, particularly interested in Dániel Margócsy’s “Stables as Collections for Breeding: The Production of Knowledge and the Reproduction of Horses.” My primary research topic currently is on understanding of inheritance in horses and livestock in the 18th and early 19th centuries, so this was a can’t miss. I was not the only equine historian in attendance– something that is becoming delightfully less uncommon– and even had a chance to compare research notes and chat about the state of our field with Kathryn Renton over coffee. As Mary Terrall mentioned after, horse history papersScreen Shot 2017-09-17 at 6.05.29 PM are still rare enough that we come from miles around at the hint of one. Margócsy also mentioned the strange omission of horses from current research.

Margócsy’s presentation focused in particular on the relationship between collections of art and collections of horses, which often occupied the same space. He also suggests that the “ephemerality” of horses changed the ways in with they were viewed and used as collections. Because horses were collected as living, rather than preserved, specimens, preservation needs were met though breeding and through art. I look forward to reading more of his work on the subject.

   And, worth mentioning, the top tweet of the conference was these good dogs:

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