Vigilance as an Ideal, a Strategy and a Method in Medical Culture in the Early Modern Period
A pronounced culture of vigilance is intrinsic to medicine. A deliberate modification of alertness has been a core competency required of any doctor from antiquity to modern times. Associated with this is the ability to detect all phenomena which are, or could be, relevant to health and disease both cognitively and using one’s senses. However, doctors also rely on the alertness of patients, relatives and carers who can observe changes in health both from an internal and external point of view; and who can then notify them about these changes. An ensemble of strategies for the adoption, learning, mastery and systematic use of vigilance techniques were perfected in early modern medical discourse.
The project aims to investigate medical vigilance in its ethical, praxeological and epistemic functions. Deontological records, surgical case reports (Observationes) and their corresponding paratexts, as well as letters exchanged between doctors will be used as research sources.
Viewed from a longue durée perspective, examining this type of early modern vigilance enables the identification of links to modern medical surveillance practices, which, as modern forms of medical vigilance, now play an integral role in everyday medical practices.