The Medical World of Early Modern Ireland, 1500-1750

Country: Ireland

City: Dublin

Abstr. due: 06.03.2015

Dates: 03.09.15 — 04.09.15

Area Of Sciences: Medicine;

Organizing comittee e-mail:

Organizers: The Centre for Medical History, University of Exeter


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 is 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 will allow 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 is intended as a benchmark event that will facilitate appraisal of the current state of the subject and help towards defining the parameters of a sustainable future research agenda.

Proposals are accordingly invited for papers of 20-25 minutes duration that will address key aspects of the medical world of early modern Ireland. Major themes for consideration include the following:  

  • Continuity and change in the character and scope of medical practice, including the impact of conquest and plantation on pre-existing medical culture, the influence of new ideas and/or persistence of established approaches across the period, as well as the significance of attempts at regulation.
  • Trends in education, training and career patterns, encompassing hereditary succession, patronage, apprenticeship and university study.
  • The roles played by women, in popular and domestic medicine and beyond.
  • The place of medicine within processes of social and cultural change in Ireland more generally, and the wider parts played by medical practitioners in scientific, intellectual, political, military, confessional and other spheres.

Contributions from early career researchers and postgraduate research students are particularly welcome and limited financial support is available to help with travel and conference costs on application.

Conference Web-Site: