Medicine and the Making of Race, 1440-1720

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Medicine and the Making of Race, 1440-1720 is a four-year UKRI FLF-funded project which seeks to explore the role of medical practitioners in the early years of the slave trade, and the relationship their practical experiences had to early modern ideas of ‘race’.

This project aims to uncover and analyze practical medical attitudes to enslaved and free Black Africans in early modern Europe, and in early modern Europeans’ global encounters. It addresses several key research questions:

  • How did medical practitioners contribute to the earliest global encounters?
  • What role did they play in the increasingly systematic enslavement of African peoples, both in Europe and in the New World?
  • Did African communities provide alternative medical treatments, and if so, how did European medicine encounter and react to these practices?
  • How did medical treatment of “foreign bodies” inform practitioners’ attitudes to human difference? How did medical conceptions of difference inform developing ideas “race”?

Early Modern Race/Ethnic/Indigenous Studies

The richest bibliography for work in the field. This bibliography was initially compiled by Hannah Ehrenberg (BC ‘13), a former English/Theater major at Barnard College, with input from Kim F. Hall (Barnard College) and Peter Erickson (Northwestern University) for the 2015 Shakespeare Association of America seminar “Early Modern Race / Ethnic / Diaspora Studies.” There was a great wave of scholarship in early modern race studies during the 90s; this bibliography assumes some familiarity with that work and focuses roughly on scholarship since 2000.