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The Rise of Medical Experts in Enlightenment France

"Chirurgie," Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, vol. 3 (plates) (Paris, 1763)

"Chirurgie," Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, vol. 3 (plates) (Paris, 1763)


Meghan is in the early stages of researching a book on medical practitioners in Enlightenment France. The eighteenth century witnessed sweeping changes to the theory and practice of medicine. Surgeons, once seen as no more than skilled artisans, elevated their status to rival that of physicians. Female midwives slowly lost ground to male midwives and surgeons as the practice of medicine became more masculine. The government launched its first public health programs. Medicine crept into every facet of an individual's life: physicians counseled their patients on diet, exercise, and even how to raise their children. But how did these changes come about? Meghan's current research explores this question by looking at medical practitioners: how they competed with their peers, captured public interest, and secured their patients' trust. Each chapter focuses on a particular type of practitioner -- midwives, physicians, surgeons, etc -- with a single individual anchoring the analysis. These interlocking microhistories map the construction of medical authority on the ground and the practice and dissemination of Enlightenment ideas while also teasing out the cultural, social,  and intellectual context.

Love & Loss

Meghan is also continuing her research into the culture of sentimentalism and history of emotions through a series of articles. The first considers how Pierre Choderlos de Laclos, author of Dangerous Liaisons, used material objects to stay connected to his beloved wife and children while he was in prison during the Terror. The second investigates Denis Diderot's relationship with his mistress Sophie Volland and in particular his attempts to incorporate her sister (who was also her lover) into a stable love triangle.