The Medical World of Early Modern Ireland, 1500-1750
Conference Dates: 3-4 September 2015
Conference Venue: The Long Room Hub, Trinity College Dublin
Organised By: The Centre for Medical History, University of Exeter
Supported By: The Wellcome Trust
Hosted By: The Centre for Early Modern History, Trinity College Dublin
In Co-operation With: The Centre for the History of Medicine in Ireland at University College Dublin and the University of Ulster
The medical world of early modern Ireland was not only rooted in a society undergoing rapid transformation but also increasingly connected to transnational networks of migration, education, trade and ideas. It was profoundly shaped from within by changes such as the collapse of the Gaelic order, and from without by factors including the curricula of continental universities. A growing body of research is now enabling a more nuanced understanding of this complex and variegated world. Yet Irish medical historiography was recently and quite reasonably described as a field where 'the modern period overwhelms the early modern'. Synchronic comparison, most notably with England, also reinforces the impression of early modern Irish medical history as a still relatively underdeveloped subject.
These circumstances point towards the continued need for a greater and sustained scholarly engagement with the history of medicine in early modern Ireland. Moreover, the wide range of contexts encompassed by the subject, social, cultural, linguistic, intellectual, institutional, confessional and so on, highlights the particular importance of on going knowledge exchange and collaborations between scholars. Such endeavour is also vital to enabling better awareness of the contents of, and challenges posed by, a frequently problematic archival base. The fact that many of the types of early modern source available for other countries were in Ireland either never created in the first place or subsequently destroyed is obviously of enormous consequence. At the same time, some rich and distinctive elements, such as Gaelic medical manuscript culture, are beyond the expertise of many historians.
This conference was designed to meet these and other challenges by bringing together scholars working on the history of medicine in Ireland in the period 1500-1750. It allowed them to present the findings of latest research, whether focused on the island itself, relevant transnational contexts, or both. Under the aegis of the ambitious Early Modern Practitioners project at the University of Exeter, the conference was seen as a benchmark event that facilitated appraisal of the current state of the subject and helped define the parameters of a sustainable future research agenda.