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Tue, 20/06/2017 - 14:26

Carolin Schmitz - Ingenio(CSIC-UPV) awarded the "Premio Hernández Morejón" for the best doctoral thesis on the History of Medicine: "Los enfermos en la España Barroca (1600-­1740) y el pluralismo médico: espacios, estrategias y actitudes".

This thesis aims to reconstruct the experience of seeking health care in Early Modern Spain from the perspective of those most directly affected by it: the sick. As previous studies on the history of the patient in Early Modern Europe have indicated, the patient was not a passive figure but was actively engaged in the search for finding a cure. Based upon this fundamental assumption, this thesis is one of the first studies examining patients’ experience of illness within the medical culture of baroque Spain; it seeks to elucidate how the sick acted and made use of the plurality of therapeutic resources available.

To assess the perspectives and perceptions of patients from different social and cultural contexts, various types of sources were utilised: letters between patients and the renowned royal physician, testimonies of the sick from inquisitorial interrogation protocols and criminal law proceedings, as well as picaresque literature.

The analysis of the data obtained has followed a distinctive methodological approach: a combination of the anthropological concepts of “therapeutic itineraries” and the category of spaces of healing. The consideration of the many steps involved in the patients search for relief (therapeutic itineraries) has helped to identify the complex process of decision-making, which was influenced not only by individual beliefs, but also by the involvement of other social actors. By structuring the patient’s quest into therapy through spaces of healing (the domestic space, local community, travel to distant places and the virtual space of correspondence), the chosen categories proved to be broad enough to adequately illustrate both the coexistence of a diverse array of health care options and the patients’ often eclectic use of them. A close look at the strategies applied by the sick, and the attitudes shown towards healing options, has led us to the conclusion that seeking health care was a complex arrangement of individual choices, which, independent from social status and the availability of local medical assistance, could result in a kaleidoscopic journey to recovery.

Regarding the prize, in 1963, the Spanish Society of History of Medicine agreed to create this award for the best doctoral thesis of historical and medical content defended in a Spanish university. In its first edition (called for theses of the course 1965-66) the prize amounted to 5000 pesetas. Among the changes that have occurred is, of course, the economic, being the current amount of 1000 euros. The call is made, since 1987, by natural years.

More information: Sociedad Española de Historia de la Medicina