Historical Encounters and Transformations of Medical Matters and Medical Meanings: Premodern Pathways between East Asia and Europe
Developing towards a global science of health and well-being, medicine has to a large extent relied on material supplies. What we view today as “globalisation” in a multicultural world, has far-reaching roots. The common European narrative emphasises the appropriation of materials by the “centre” and of knowledge by “the periphery”. But throughout the centuries, the objects and paths of appropriation went both ways. Local availability and changing chains for supplies impacted what became a preferred medication, a means for teaching or for therapeutic use. Premodern drug production privileged process over substance and mixture over purity, apparently contrasting modern “European” concepts. What can we say about the geography of resonances between earlier healing systems?
Our panel will take a comparative look at the premodern roots of this period’s creation of categories and rules for pharmaceutical and medical practice: How did issues such as pricing and availability, a substance's name or form shape the market for effective, precious, precarious or subtle medicinal substances, instruments and tools, of health and healthy bodies? Particularly welcome are contributions that take a combined view at the scientific practices and political and economic paradigms for global trade (between Asia and Germany).
Following the trajectory of matters, substances, preparations, and concepts, research leads to pharmacies and pharmaceutical practice. The Ducal Court Pharmacy at Wolfenbüttel provides ample archival evidence of gobal exchange (1576-1716, Wacker 2009). Preparations of plants like ginger, nutmeg, or poppy went into the hundreds, but alchemical knowledge was also present. The documenting data-base reveals trajectories of pre-modern concepts of healing between different cultures, and of trading substances and knowledge.
These data are complemented by the collection of early modern historical drugs at Braunschweig University of Technology (comprising about 900 samples of medicinal substances, among them medicinal substances from Indian alchemical materia medica) and Schneider's documenting Arzneimittelhistorisches Lexikon, which elaborates a systematic understanding of early modern materia medica and is based on alchemical instructions, but also stock lists and pharmacopoeas.
The panel will comprise 4-6 panelists from the History of East Asian and European Medicine giving examples of comparison and exchange.