Miraculous medicines and exotic rituals

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By | Early Medicine, Events and Visits

The next seminar in the 2016–17 History of Pre-Modern Medicine seminar series takes place on Tuesday 8th November.

Image of healer.

Recueil de modes. Tome 7: cent-cinquante-et-une planches (Paris: [n.p.], 1750). Bibliothèque nationale de France, département Bibliothèque-musée de l’opéra, RES-926 (10).

Speaker: Dr Tara Alberts (University of York)

Miraculous medicines and exotic rituals: European healers in southeast Asian royal courts in the 17th century


In a number of royal courts across 17th-century southeast Asia, a wide range of foreign medical experts and ritual specialists were engaged by rulers and nobles. Foreign specialists could provide access to new ideas, exotic remedies and novel technologies. Their employment could demonstrate the prestige, learning and influence of their patron, and their presence could be of wider strategic and political utility. For many Europeans arriving to trade and evangelise around the region, gaining such intimate, privileged access to a royal court seemed an ideal way to further their own interests. This paper examines the ways in which various Europeans attempted to establish themselves as healers in royal courts around the region. Employing a wide range of treatments from religious relics to alchemical cures, these men sought to out-perform and displace other foreign and local healers and ritual specialists – with varying degrees of success. This paper will uncover the strategies that these Europeans employed to persuade members of the court of their own skill, and of the efficacy and value of their cures.


Wellcome Library, 183 Euston Road, London, NW1 2BE.

Doors open at 6pm, seminar will start at 6.15pm.

The seminar series is focused on pre-modern medicine, which we take to cover European and non-European history before the 20th century (antiquity, medieval and early modern history, some elements of 19th-century medicine).

Further details on the seminar series are available in a previous post.

Ross Macfarlane

Ross Macfarlane is the Research Engagement Officer at the Wellcome Library.

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