Friday, August 1, 2014

Casanova: Patient Zero

Sometimes historical demography requires overturning some unusual stones to get a sense of fertility patterns, family structure, public health, and other population dynamics in the past. My recent essay, published in Hektoen International Journal of Medical Humanities dives into a very unlikely source for demographic and public health information: Casanova's diary.
Giacomo Casanova, the infamous rake, is responsible for providing historians and anthropologists with a veritable treasure trove of historical health information. His life spanned from 1725 to 1798, and his memoir, Histoire de Ma Vie, recounts nearly every day of his life with meticulous detail, from the most basic breakfast (usually chocolate) to the most convoluted course of treatment for venereal disease (usually mercury). Far from being merely a smut-filled account of Casanova’s sexual conquests, the memoir provides modern readers with extraordinary insight into the world of public health, family planning, and the transmission and treatment of sexually transmitted disease in Europe in the eighteenth century... [continue reading]

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