Reconstructing the Medical Community In 1427 Florence

Claire Litt // In 1427 Maestro Giovanni Bartolomeo, a doctor of good social standing, lived in the Leon Rosso Quarter of Santa Maria Novella in Florence (Castato ID: 50005679). It was a good neighbourhood–in fact, the richest family in Florence, the Strozzi, lived there. Unlike other Italian city-states, the Guild of Doctors and Apothecaries in…

A Look at a Florentine Book of Domestic Medicine

Claire Litt // A recipe book composed four hundred years ago sits on a shelf in Florence’s Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale (1). Its title, “Anon Raccolta di segreti alchimi […]” (Anonymous Collection of Alchemy Secrets […]) is similar to numerous other manuscripts in the collection and does not hint at all at all at the book’s…

Part II: The Church and Abortion in Counter Reformation Italy

Claire Litt // The first part in this series on women’s sexual and reproductive health in early modern Italy explored the political consequences of women’s pregnancies, and the devastating consequences for noblewomen when they were unable to conceive. However extensively treated the topic of conception was, especially in scholarly medical literature, the topics of contraception…

Part I: Political Pregnancies in the Italian City States

Claire Litt // In early modern Italy, there was enormous pressure on noblewomen to produce healthy male children. The security of ruling families’ lines of succession (and the political stability of the city-states they ruled) were often precariously dependant on the reproductive health of only one or two women who married into each family. For…

The Great Millennial Depression?

Claire Litt//           The post-World War II babies of the 1950s were the teenagers and young adults who brought about the cultural and sexual revolutions of the 1960s. Theirs was a generation of optimism and change; they fainted during Beatles concerts, demanded contraception and held feminist protests. Restrained only by the hemline…

Bizarre Plots to Bezoars Stones: Poisons and Antidotes in Medici Florence

Claire Litt // On February 8th, 1548 a ciphered letter addressed to Duke Cosimo I reported that “The Farnesi every day try new practices to kill Don Ferrando [Gonzaga] with poison” (Medici Archive Project Doc ID# 5407). By the mid-16th century in Italy, the brazen daylight attacks that characterized assassinations of political leaders in previous…