Healthy Living in Late Renaissance Italy

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 1/21/2014
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
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Healthy Living in Late Renaissance Italy explores in detail the efforts made by men and women in late Renaissance Italy to stay healthy and prolong their lives. Drawing on a wide variety of sources - ranging from cheap healthy living guides in the vernacular to personal letters, conduct literature, household inventories, and surviving images and objects - this volume demonstrates that a sophisticated culture of prevention was being developed in sixteenth-century Italian cities. This culture sought to regulate the factors thought to influence health and centered particularly on the home and domestic routines such as sleep patterns, food and drink consumption, forms of exercise, hygiene, control of emotions, and monitoring the air quality to which the body was exposed. Concerns about healthy living also had a substantial impact on the design of homes and the dissemination of a range of household objects.

This study thus reveals the forgotten role of medical concerns in shaping everyday life and domestic material culture. However, medicine was not the sole factor responsible for these changes. The surge of interest in preventive medicine received new impetus from the development of the print industry. Moreover, it was fuelled by classical notions of wellbeing, re-proposed by humanist culture and by the new interest in geography and climates. Broader social and religious trends also played a key role; most significantly, the nexus between attention to one's health and spiritual and moral worth promoted both by new ideas of what constituted nobility and by the Counter-Reformation.

Six key areas were thought to influence the balance of "humors" within the body and Healthy Living in Late Renaissance Italy is organized into six main chapters which reflect these concerns: Air, Exercise, Sleep, Food and Drink, Managing the Emotions, and Bodily Hygiene. The volume is richly illustrated and offers an accessible but fascinating glimpse into both the domestic lives and health preoccupations of the early modern Italians.

Author Biography

Sandra Cavallo is Professor of Early Modern History and co-director of the Centre for the Study of the Body and Material Culture at Royal Holloway, University of London and specialises in the history of medicine, gender and material culture. Her publications include the books Charity and Power in Early Modern Italy and Artisans of the Body in Early Modern Italy: Identities, Families, Masculinities, and the edited volumes Widowhood in Medieval and Early Modern Europe, Spaces, Objects, and Identities in Early Modern Italian Medicine, Domestic Institutional Interiors in Early Modern Europe and A Cultural History of Childhood and the Family vol. 3, The Early Modern Age.

Tessa Storey is a Research Associate at Royal Holloway, University of London. Since 2009, she has been working as a research associate on the Wellcome funded research project which has made this book possible. She has published a number of chapters and articles on early modern Rome, as well as a book, Carnal Commerce in Counter Reformation Rome.

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