Experience and the Soul in Eighteenth-Century Medicine


Focused on three different protestant communities - puritans, pietists, and Methodists - this essay argues that eighteenth-century protestants were actively engaged in contemporary medical debates, and that their engagement was shaped by their faith in providence. Eighteenth-century protestants understood sickness as part of the created order, they interpreted medicine as a divinely-given tool for Christian action on behalf of the suffering, and they recognized an opportunity for mission in their healing efforts. Motivated by their understanding of God's providential oversight of sickness and health, they relied on empirical medicine, read widely in the emerging medical print culture, turned to networks of women's medical knowledge, and participated in theoretical debates over the soul's role in bodily health. This essay represents an important intervention both in medical history, which has overlooked or misunderstood the role of religion in eighteenth-century medical thought and practice, and in religious studies, in which studies of religion and medicine in America have focused almost exclusively on movements emerging since the nineteenth century and the rise of Arminianism.


Religious Studies

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Church History