Water Medicine. Medical uses of mineral waters (1300-1850)
This new issue on the history of mineral waters offers to step out of the retrospective idea of the “thermal craze” from the second half of the 19th century, which tends to focus on the commercialisation of leisure. In line with the recent history of therapeutics, we would like to replace mineral waters in the theoretical and practical contexts of health, following up on the work of scholars who have shown their gradual medical appropriation, starting with Italian doctors at the end of the medieval period. The specific use of waters, between drugs and regimen, is a good entry to explore the practice and knowledge dynamics of the medical world.
The history of mineral waters needs to be examined in the longue durée, hence the broad chronological span chosen for this call. Some characteristics of mineral waters present continuities that defy strict periodisation. Our objective is to explore the reconfigurations and persistence of questions and debates around mineral waters in a transhistorical and transnational perspective.
Mineral waters can be perceived through the lens of medical knowledge, by exploring their efficiency, their evolution and the complex relationship between the composition of mineral waters and their therapeutic use, as well as their specific application for some diseases in specific diseases. These spas were geographically situated and embedded within a broader economic realities: waters have a locus which becomes their identity, yet they could also be reproduced artificially. The frontier between the places of care and cure, and those of transgression or leisure was regularly blurred, and a source of concern for local authorities. Watering places were places of ephemeral sociability reconfiguring various professional and social groups.