Harvard UP Publishes Q&A with Sharon T. Strocchia about “Forgotten Healers”

Harvard University Press recently published a Q&A with Dr. Sharon T. Strocchia, Professor of History, about her newest book, Forgotten Healers: Women and the Pursuit of Health in Late Renaissance Italy (Harvard UP, 2019). The exchange, which was published as part of Women’s History Month, outlines the major themes and historiographic contributions of Strocchia’s monograph. Read the piece on the Harvard UP Blog: “Q&A with Sharon Strocchia.”

Emory History Department Updates in the Context of COVID-19

Emory University will extend spring break until March 22, after which the institution will transition to remote learning for graduate and undergraduate classes. Visit Emory’s COVID-19 page for details about these changes, and please contact History Department faculty and staff via email with individual questions or concerns. History Department staff and faculty will work remotely for the next several weeks.

All History Department seminars, workshops, and book events have been canceled for the remainder of the semester, including the History Department Workshop scheduled for this Friday, March 20, featuring Dr. Thomas D. Rogers and Dr. Jeffrey T. Manuel, and the celebration of Dr. Sharon Strocchia’s recently-published monograph, Forgotten Healers: Women and the Pursuit of Health in Late Renaissance Italy, slated for next week. In lieu of the in-person events featuring these works, check out two recent posts about them:

Rogers and Manuel Publish Op-Ed in ‘The Brazilian Report’

Thomas D. Rogers, Arthur Blank/NEH Chair in the Humanities and Humanistic Social Sciences and Associate Professor of History, recently published an opinion editorial with his collaborator Jeffrey T. Manuel in The Brazilian Report. The piece, titled “U.S. ethanol industry should take a leaf out of São Paulo’s book,” explores how ethanol policy and programs in São Paulo, Brazil, could inform energy administration in the United States. Rogers and Manuel are writing a transnational study of ethanol policy in Brazil and the U.S. Read the full article (paywall protected): “U.S. ethanol industry should take a leaf out of São Paulo’s book.”

Department of History Workshop to Feature ‘Ethanol Lands’ by Rogers and Co-Author Manuel (CANCELLED)

The next meeting of the History Department Workshop will feature Dr. Thomas D. Rogers’s current book project, “Ethanol Lands: Energy, Agriculture, and Sustainability in the United States and Brazil.” Rogers is co-authoring the book with Dr. Jeffrey T. Manuel, Associate Professor of Historical Studies at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. The workshop will take place on Friday, March 20, from 12-1:30pm in the Major Seminar Room. Please RSVP to Becky Herring (becky.herring@emory.edu) if you plan to attend. image002

Schainker, Yates Featured Among Emory’s Robust Contingent of Fulbright Scholars

Emory University was recently named a top producer of Fulbright scholars by the Chronicle of Higher Education. Six professors and administrators were awarded Fulbright Scholar Awards in 2019-20. Those awardees include Dr. Ellie R. Schainker, Arthur Blank Family Foundation Associate Professor of History and Jewish Studies. Schainker will conduct research in Israel and Lithuania for her current project, “Rites of Empire: Jewish Religious Reforms in Imperial Russia, 1850-1917.” Read our earlier story about Dr. Schainker’s project: “Schainker Wins Fulbright Global Scholarship and Fellowship at Moscow’s Jewish Museum & Tolerance Center.”

The awardees also include former academic department administrator Kelly Yates, who is now assistant director of the Halle Institute for Global Research. Yates received a Fulbright position in the U.S.-Germany International Education Administrators Program, which creates links with the societal, cultural and higher education systems of other countries.

Read about the other awardees in the last year from the Emory News Center: “Emory named a top producer of Fulbright Scholars.”

Event to Showcase Strocchia’s Work on Women and Healthcare in the Italian Renaissance (CANCELLED)

On Wednesday, March 25, the Department of History will host an event, “Women and Healthcare: Lessons from the Italian Renaissance,” marking the publication of Dr. Sharon T. Strocchia’s newest book, Forgotten Healers: Women and the Pursuit of Health in Late Renaissance Italy (Harvard UP, 2019). Dr. Strocchia’s discussion of the book will be followed by a panel with Dr. Ruth Parker (Emory University School of Medicine) and Prof. Kylie Smith (Woodruff School of Nursing). The event will take place from 4:30 pm-6:30 pm in the Jones Room of Woodruff Library.

See the Event flyer below, and also read a recent History Department Q&A with Dr. Strocchia about Forgotten Healers.

New Books Series: Q & A with Sharon T. Strocchia about ‘Forgotten Healers’

Dr. Sharon T. Strocchia, Professor of History, recently published Forgotten Healers: Women and the Pursuit of Health in Late Renaissance Italy with Harvard University Press. Sandra Cavallo (Royal Holloway, University of London) describes the study as a “remarkable book with fresh perspectives that significantly advance our understanding of the distinctive ways of learning and knowing that characterized the early modern age.” Below, Dr. Strocchia offers a glimpse into the making of the monograph as a part of the History Department’s series on new faculty publications.

Books are produced over years if not decades. Give us a sense of the lifespan of this book, from initial idea to final edits.

The idea for this project first took flight in the summer of 2009, when I participated in the NEH Summer Seminar for College Teachers, “Disease in the Middle Ages,” hosted by the Wellcome Library in London. Venturing into the seminar with no training in medical history was a daunting but transformative experience. After five weeks of intensive reading and discussion about disease, disability, illness, healing, care, and the premodern body, I was convinced that the bits and pieces of archival evidence I had been amassing over the years had the potential to become a book. Every summer for the next seven or eight years, I immersed myself in Italian archives and libraries pursuing leads, building up crucial pockets of evidence, and refocusing chapters to capitalize on available sources. During the academic year, I read and wrote as much as possible as a way to make sense of new material and prepare myself for the next archive trip. Along the way, I was fortunate enough to receive several grants that provided release time from regular teaching duties. Securing the right images for the book added a couple of months to the timeline, but the delay was worth it. Books tend to have a life of their own, and this one needed a long gestation. But I can honestly say that I loved every minute of it.

What was the research process like?

Scholars who work in Italian Renaissance studies tend to be deeply grounded in the archives. That’s because sixteenth-century Italians were such avid record-keepers; their penchant for writing means that Italian archives today are unparalleled laboratories for understanding the early modern past. I worked in eleven different archives scattered between Rome and London in order to excavate the many ways in which urban women anchored a wider medical economy in late Renaissance Italy. Still, it was a challenge to integrate women’s health literacy and healthcare activities into a broader medical narrative because of the fragmentary nature of the evidence and the pronounced silences about everyday arrangements such as care work. But trying to conceptualize this diffuse body of evidence presented an even greater challenge. I wanted to understand the continuum of healing skills and knowledge that women produced and circulated experientially, rather than study the development of academic medicine in universities, from which women were excluded. I also had to move beyond a focus on official titles and occupational identities, which has led scholars to both undercount and undervalue the healthcare services Renaissance women provided to household and community. In other words, this book is not only the product of painstaking work in archives and obscure print materials; I first had to redefine what “counted” as medical work.

Are you partial to a particular chapter or section?

Even though I like the three-dimensional picture painted by the book as a whole, I’m especially partial to the two linked chapters devoted to Florentine nun apothecaries as knowledge makers and commercial innovators. I was able to show that nuns living in female religious communities were among the most prominent medical vendors of their day. By making and marketing medicines to the public, they both augmented the medical resources available in Italian urban society and acquired roles of public significance beyond the spiritual realm. Learning their craft through apprenticeship, nun apothecaries worked at the nexus of market and laboratory as both medical artisans and entrepreneurs. These were women with skilled hands and inquiring minds who kept abreast of new technologies and market trends through wide-ranging information networks, medical reading, and hands-on experimentation. To write these chapters, I had to learn a lot about the materiality of making medicines in the sixteenth century: the spaces, materials, and distinctive tools and technologies used in producing remedies on a commercial scale. I also enjoyed the challenge of piecing together the biographies of several fascinating women who became deeply immersed in both Renaissance commercial culture and the culture of experimentation, which we commonly associate with the “scientific revolution.” It was just thrilling to be able to demonstrate so concretely that women have had a long history in medicine, science, and technology.

How does this project align with your broad research agenda?

I’ve been working at the intersection of gender, medicine, religion, and visual culture in the early modern period for a long time, so this book embodies a lifetime of intellectual interests. But I couldn’t have embarked on this project without having first delved deeply into the nature and significance of Renaissance convents, which was the subject of my previous book and many articles. In turn, Forgotten Healers acts as the launch pad for my next project, which explores the medical marketplace in late Renaissance Italy. That new work-in-progress looks at the process of patenting medicines in the sixteenth century, which frequently involved small-scale drug trials on human subjects, as well as innovations in consumer culture such as medical advertising and the development of brand names. Despite their association with the modern era, these practices had a much longer history that has yet to be written. Stay tuned!