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Sickness in Correspondence: gentry letter writing and the subject of health in eighteenth-century Yorkshire, County Durham, and Northumberland

REYNOLDS, KATHLEEN,MARIE (2018) Sickness in Correspondence: gentry letter writing and the subject of health in eighteenth-century Yorkshire, County Durham, and Northumberland. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



This study uses eighteenth-century gentry correspondence from Yorkshire, County Durham, and Northumberland to investigate how letter writers discussed sickness and managed medical treatments in the home. Letter writers went beyond expressions of concern and reassurances of good health in correspondence by providing details about the experience of falling ill, diagnosing conditions, choosing treatments, and caring for their sick relatives. The extent of household medical work in the eighteenth century is an understudied topic compared to earlier centuries. This thesis redresses the lacuna in research by analyzing caregiving, medical knowledge, and medical expertise to reconsider the structure of household medicine and the extent to which the household functioned autonomously during illness.

The chapters can be envisioned as a series of thematic concentric circles. Beginning with the bodies of letter writers and their families (Chapter Two), each chapter expands its focus to wider elements of household health and covers caregiving practices (Chapter Three) and medical knowledge (Chapter Four). Chapter Five justifies how the household could be a site of medical expertise which simultaneously paid for medical care by introducing a sociological model which allows for the coexistence of experts with differing but complimentary expertises. Interactions with paid practitioner are the subject of Chapter Six. This thesis also explores continuity and change in medical and gendered behaviour over the eighteenth-century. Arguments about domestic healing as a female activity are mediated by the clear interest and involvement of their male relatives, and the emphasis on coexistence and cooperation between genders. Mediating between the survival of medical practice, the change in medical theories, and the gradual decreasing interest in discussing caregiving practices through correspondence allows this thesis to position the eighteenth-century household between earlier histories of household medicine and the spread of hospital medicine in the nineteenth century.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:history; history of medicine; eighteenth century; household; gender; caregiving; nursing; expertise; medical knowledge; illness; county durham; northumberland; yorkshire
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > History, Department of
Thesis Date:2018
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:11 May 2018 13:04

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