The Rise of Medical Experts in the French Atlantic World

 "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)


I am currently researching a book on medical practitioners in the Francophone Atlantic World. The eighteenth century witnessed sweeping changes to the theory and practice of medicine; this was the age when medicine became a widespread lens for understanding the world as well as a crucial tool for expanding and profiting from European empires. Surgeons, once seen as no more than skilled artisans, elevated their status to rival that of physicians and plied their trade around the globe. Female midwives found themselves under renewed attack by male midwives and surgeons, who soughtto make the practice of medicine more masculine. The government launched its first public health programs and depended on medical experts to ensure the successful expansion of France's empire. My research explores this history from the ground level: how did these changes come about? How did physicians, surgeons, and midwives position themselves as useful experts, and how do their strategies help us understand the rise of modern medical expertise? I have designed the project as a series of interlocking microhistories, with each chapter focusing on a single individual or event. By studying a diverse set of medical experts -- from surgeons on slave ships to midwives in provincial France -- this book will map the construction of medical authority on the ground while also teasing out the cultural, social, and intellectual context. 

Love & Loss

I am also continuing my 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. This article is forthcoming in Eighteenth-Century Studies. 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.