Carolin Schmitz (Cambridge): Negotiating order in a communal affair: Contracting medical practitioners in early modern Spain.
In early modern Spain, villages and towns of all sizes maintained a system of contracting medical professionals, as elsewhere in Europe, to guarantee a medical provision, particularly throughout the vast rural landscapes. In 1717 the town council of Mambrilla (Burgos) knowingly hired the unlicensed surgeon Juan Santos, which triggered a series of responses among community members: Some supported the decision convinced of his extraordinary surgical skills despite not owning a license, while others were upset and took legal actions to restore their troubled sense of ordered and legitimate medical practice. Based on this case study, this presentation frames the hiring of medical practitioners as a distinctively communal affair. Choosing a healthcare provider, I argue, was a process of negotiation embedded in local preferences and notions of social stability. Juan Santos’ case is one of many that nurture my Wellcome funded research project “From cures to courts of justice: Medical encounters and social order in early modern Spain”. However, it stands out in addressing several intertwined issues: it showcases the (im)practical dimensions of a royal licencing and control system; the trial records produced by various courts of justices exemplify how people navigated the paths of legal pluralism; and crucially, it reveals how understandings of social order could differ not only on a state vs local division, but also within the local community itself.
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