Call for Papers: Reconsidering Illness and Recovery in the Early Modern World

By Rachel Clamp (@racheljclamp) and Claire Turner (@_claire_turner_)

With many conferences being cancelled or postponed due to COVID-19, Rachel Clamp (Durham University) and Claire Turner (University of Leeds) have decided to hold an online interdisciplinary conference. Their aim is to provide a space for scholars at all stages of their careers to discuss and share their work with the wider academic community.

The virtual conference will bring together an interdisciplinary group of researchers to reconsider the role of health, illness, and recovery in the early modern world in light of the current crisis. These topics sit at the intersection of some of the most significant themes in early modern history and are particularly relevant today. The ways in which contemporaries interpreted, represented, monitored, controlled and ultimately recovered from illness have broad implications for the study of science, medicine, religion, art, literature and so much more.

Reconsidering Illness and Recovery in the Early Modern World will take place virtually on 18 and 19 August 2020, from 1-4pm and 1-3pm BST respectively. There will be three panels in total. The first two panels will be on 18 August and panel three will take place the following day, in order to mitigate screen fatigue.

Panel One will focus on Epidemic and Infectious Disease. Panel Two is on Death, Dying, and Mortality. Finally, the theme of Panel Three is Medicine and Recovery. Each panel will consist of three fifteen-minute presentations, with time for questions and discussion.

The panels will be followed by two excellent keynote presentations. Professor John Henderson, Birkbeck, University of London will present his new research on the French Disease. Also, Dr Hannah Newton, University of Reading, will be presenting a paper titled ‘Inside the Sickchamber: The Experience of Illness Through Six Objects’.

We are delighted to announce a call for papers for the three panels and invite abstracts of no more than 300 words. Presentations may cover, but are not limited to, the following subjects:

  • To what extent did religion influence ideas about epidemics, their cause, and their prevention in the early modern period?
  • How did early modern governments and authorities respond to epidemics?
  • What effect did illness and recovery have on early modern thought, literature, art, material culture and society?
  • How did the rituals surrounding death and dying develop during this period?
  • In what ways did illness and recovery affect perceptions of space, place, and topography in urban and rural settlements?
  • What do treatises, broadsheets, and bills of mortality tell us about the interplay between print and disease in the early modern period?
  • How has the current crisis encouraged researchers to re-examine approaches to studying past pandemics?

We particularly welcome proposals from postgraduate and early career researchers. We hope this conference will provide postgraduate researchers like ourselves with a much-needed opportunity to network when many of us feel isolated from the rest of the academic community. With that in mind, we extend our invitation of both attendance and participation to undergraduate and PGT students from all disciplines.

A selection of books relevant to the topic will be given as a prize for the best PGR paper presented at the conference.

If you are interesting in presenting a 15 minute paper, please submit an abstract of no more than 300 words to by 3 July 2020.

The convenors aim to inform applicants of a decision within a week of the submission deadline. In the meantime, you can keep up to date with events and announcements by visiting our website:



Image: A husband and wife ask a quack doctor for advice about health: he suggests substituting himself for the husband in the wife’s affections, and she agrees. Mezzotint by J. Simon, 17–, after E. Jeaurat. Credit: Wellcome CollectionAttribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

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