Pocky Wenches Versus La Pauvre Femme: Medical Perceptions of Venereal Disease in Seventeenth-century England and France Page: 2
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Others, such as English practitioner William Clowes, cited the siege of Naples by the army of
King Charles VIII of France in 1494-95. It is now generally agreed by scholars that the campaign
of Charles VIII of France and his marching army through Italy in 1493-94 caused the venereal
disease to spread throughout Europe.4 Prior to the seventeenth century, medical practitioners
relied on the role of divine causation for venereal disease. Medical authors depicted syphilis as a
punishment for moral sin and decay. By the beginning of the seventeenth century however,
medical authors moved away from associating the cause of the disease with divine punishment
and moved toward reasoning and experimentation in their search for the cause of syphilis.5
The medical marketplace responded to the increasing needs of infected individuals in
both England and France. Irregular practitioners or medical quacks (non-university trained or
sanctioned physicians) often treated venereal patients who could not afford professional
treatment.6 Most authors sold their venereal treatises and services at a relatively low cost.
Elizabeth Furdell's Publishing and Medicine in Early Modern England documents the popularity
of medical treatises as well as their affordability among the masses.7 In regards to readership,
Furdell explains that these medical publications were often plastered to the walls at busy
intersections, such as the list of miscellaneous cures affixed at "the Sign of the Angell, near the
4 Merians, The Secret Malady, 5.
5 For the change in medical thought see: Roger French and Andrew Wear, eds., The Medical Revolution of
the Seventeenth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989).
6 For a discussion of the tension between "professional" practitioners and quack doctors in England see:
Margaret Pelling, Medical Conflicts in Early Modern London: Patronage, Physicians, and Irregular Practitioners
1550-1640 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2003). Pelling argues convincingly that in London, physicians attempted to
control a monopoly of medical treatment with limited success. For a discussion of irregular practitioners in France
see: Alison Klairmont Lingo, "Empirics and Charlatans in Early Modem France: The Genesis of the Classification
of the "Other" in Medical Practice," Journal of Social History 19, no. 4 (Summer 1986): 585-603. Christi Sumich's
recent dissertation, "Soul-Sick Stomachs, Distempered Bodies, and Divine Physicians: Morality and the Growth of
the English Medical Professional" (PhD diss., Tulane University, 2008), 1-350 emphasizes the development of the
medical professional in England by the end of the eighteenth century. Similar to London, Paris physicians equated
charlatans as ruinous to the republic and dangerous to preserving proper medical care.
7 Elizabeth Furdell, Publishing and Medicine in Early Modern London (Rochester: University of Rochester
Press, 2002), 136.
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Findlater, Michelle J. Pocky Wenches Versus La Pauvre Femme: Medical Perceptions of Venereal Disease in Seventeenth-century England and France, thesis, December 2013; Denton, Texas. (https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc407748/m1/8/: accessed May 26, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, https://digital.library.unt.edu; .