History, Medicine, and the Traditions of Renaissance Learning

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University of Michigan Press, 2007 - History - 438 pages
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A major, path-breaking work, History, Medicine, and the Traditions of Renaissance Learning is Nancy G. Siraisi's examination into the intersections of medically trained authors and history in the period 1450 to 1650. Rather than studying medicine and history as separate disciplinary traditions, Siraisi calls attention to their mutual interaction in the rapidly changing world of Renaissance erudition. Far from their contributions being a mere footnote in the historical record, medical writers had extensive involvement in the reading, production, and shaping of historical knowledge during this important period. With remarkably detailed scholarship, Siraisi investigates doctors' efforts to explore the legacies handed down to them from ancient medical and anatomical writings and the difficult reconciliations this required between the authority of the ancient world and the discoveries of the modern. She also studies the ways in which sixteenth-century medical authors wrote history, both in their own medical texts and in more general historical works. In the course of her study, Siraisi finds that what allowed medical writers to become so fully engaged in the writing of history was their general humanistic background, their experience of history through the field of medicine's past, and the tools that the writing of history offered to the development of a rapidly evolving profession.

Nancy G. Siraisi is one of the preeminent scholars of medieval and Renaissance intellectual history, specializing in medicine and science. Now Distinguished Professor Emerita of History at Hunter College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York, and a 2008 winner of a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, she has written numerous books, including Taddeo Alderotti and His Pupils (Princeton, 1981), which won the American Association for the History of Medicine William H. Welch Medal; Avicenna in Renaissance Italy (Princeton, 1987); The Clock and the Mirror (Princeton, 1997); and the widely used textbook Medieval and Early Renaissance Medicine (Chicago, 1990), which won the Watson Davis and Helen Miles Davis Prize from the History of Science Society. In 2003 Siraisi received the History of Science Society's George Sarton Medal, in 2004 she received the Paul Oskar Kristellar Award for Lifetime Achievement of the Renaissance Society of America, and in 2005 she was awarded the American Historical Association Award for Scholarly Distinction.

"A fascinating study of Renaissance physicians as avid readers and enthusiastic writers of all kinds of history: from case narratives and medical biographies to archaeological and environmental histories. In this wide-ranging book, Nancy Siraisi demonstrates the deep links between the medical and the humanistic disciplines in early modern Europe."
---Katharine Park, Zemurray Stone Radcliffe Professor of the History of Science, Harvard University

"This is a salient but little explored aspect of Renaissance humanism, and there is no doubt that Siraisi has succeeded in throwing light onto a vast subject. The scholarship is wide-ranging and profound, and breaks new ground. The choice of examples is fascinating, and it puts Renaissance documents into a new context. This is a major book, well written, richly learned and with further implications for more than students of medical history."
---Vivian Nutton, Professor, The Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine, University College London, and author of From Democedes to Harvey: Studies in the History of Medicine

"Siraisi shows the many-dimensioned overlaps and interactions between medicine and 'history' in the early modern period, marking a pioneering effort to survey a neglected discipline. Her book follows the changing usage of the classical term 'history' both as empiricism and as a kind of scholarship in the Renaissance before its more modern analytical and critical applications. It is a marvel of erudition in an area insufficiently studied."
---Donald R. Kelley, Emeritus James Westfall Thompson Professor of History, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, and Executive Editor of Journal of the History of Ideas


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