The book demonstrates that health maintenance occupied a neglected but important place in late Renaissance domestic culture. Contrary to ingrained assumptions this was also a highly dynamic set of ideas: the hierarchy of the key six spheres of life (Non-Naturals) was redefined over the period and so were the recommendations concerning their management; moreover, the increasingly differentiated advice was articulated through a language that largely transcended the basic principles of humoral physiology. The study also moves away from a dyadic representation of the power relationship between patients and practitioners: change in health advice was largely socially driven and its dissemination provided patients with a sense of enhanced control over their health but reinforced at the same time the authority of physicians. The latter not only extended their advisory role from therapies to health management, but by introducing a plethora of increasingly complex distinctions in their recommendations they became the final arbiters of ‘healthiness’.
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