Aphrodisiacs, Fertility and Medicine in Early Modern England

September 2014
3 black and white illustrations
225 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
Royal Historical Society Studies in History New Series
Library eBook
Royal Historical Society
BISAC HIS037020, HIS015000, MED039000

Aphrodisiacs, Fertility and Medicine in Early Modern England

Jennifer Evans

An investigation into aphrodisiacs challenges pre-conceived ideas about sexuality during this period.
It was common knowledge in early modern England that sexual desire was malleable, and could be increased or decreased by a range of foods - including artichokes, oysters and parsnips. This book argues that these aphrodisiacs were used not simply for sexual pleasure, but, more importantly, to enhance fertility and reproductive success; and that at that time sexual desire and pleasure were felt to be far more intimately connected to conception and fertility than is the case today. It draws on a range of sources to show how, from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries, aphrodisiacs were recommended for the treatment of infertility, and how men and women utilised them to regulate their fertility. Via themes such as gender, witchcraft and domestic medical practice, it shows that aphrodisiacs were more than just sexual curiosities - they were medicines which operated in a number of different ways unfamiliar now, and their use illuminates popular understandings of sex and reproduction in this period.

Dr Jennifer Evans is a Lecturer in Early Modern History at the University of Hertfordshire.

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Table of Contents

Texts, Readers and Markets
The Reproductive and the Infertile Body
Provoking Lust and Promoting Conception
Enchanted Privities and Provokers of Lust
Aphrodisiacs, Miscarriage and Menstruation


[P]rovides new insights into early modern sexuality and medical thought and, importantly, the intersections between the two. Evans' book will be of great interest to early modern cultural historians, historians of the family, of sexuality, of demographics, of medicine and of the supernatural. CROMOHS

A short and sweet book on the cultural place of aphrodisiacs in early modern England . Evans has made a lively contribution to the wider scholarship on sexuality, gender, and fertility. BULLETIN OF THE HISTORY OF MEDICINE

An engaging and thorough analysis of the changing role of aphrodisiacs in early modern England. PARERGON

This is a highly readable, thought-provoking account of the role aphrodisiacs played in England from c. 1600-1800 in ensuring not just a lusty appetite for sex but also a healthy conception and pregnancy. Highly recommended. CHOICE

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