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Website Review: Early Modern Medicine
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Website Review:
Early Modern Medicine
earlymodernmedicine.comFounding Editor and Contributor: Jennifer Evans; Editor and Contributor: Sara Read

Though Early Modern Medicine (earlymodernmedicine.com) is the name of the blog and URL, this is misleadingly broad since the content is primarily focused on a subdiscipline concerning early modern “medicine, bodies and gender,” as noted by the website’s subtitle. It is a great place to learn more about midwifery, domestic medicine, and vernacular medical texts, but the reader should not expect to find much on learned medical professionals who might represent the early modern period in a traditional history of medicine course, such as Vesalius or William Harvey. With an archive dating back to December 2012, the blog offers a range of narrative styles and structures, mostly posts based on well-developed research projects, but also some works in progress, promotions of recent publications, and book reviews. The blog should appeal to both academic and nonacademic audiences, as even the more developed and well-researched posts are written in [End Page 329] an accessible manner. Indeed, most of the topics chosen would have immediate appeal for the general public, including bloodletting, madness, prostitution, and pregnancy, but the authors remain careful not to dip into overly sensationalizing the history of medicine.

The majority of the blog’s contributions are written by founding editor Jennifer Evans and editor Sara Read, two lecturers at British universities, each with an accomplished record of academic publications. There are additional posts by guest writers within, many of them by young academics, but there is unfortunately no easy way to find a complete list. No additional authors are named under About or Acknowledgments, and the Guest Bloggers tab leads only to a form inviting people to submit their contact information and abstracts if they’re interested in contributing. Furthermore, while some guest bloggers are identified in the hyperlinked titles on the Archive page, others are not. Perhaps a more transparent way of advertising guest bloggers or stating what the expectations are for guest submissions would help to raise the profile of the blog and attract interest from potential new contributors.

While the home page has an attractive banner and the site consistently makes excellent use of freely available images to illustrate the narrative, the site navigation and design are sometimes confusing and are not currently maximizing Word-Press’s potential. For example, the tiny snippet preview of the latest blog post on the home page does not make it clear that one has landed on a blog, as there is no visible date stamp, or indication that the reader should click to see more of the post, and the hyperlinked and superscript footnote numbers lose their special formatting and become integrated with the text in a confusing manner. There are also several typos throughout the site, and the Archive has not been updated since October 2014, all of which gives the impression that the site is not maintained or edited to the extent necessary. This is, of course, difficult to do when blogging is not your primary job, as is the case with these academically active editors, and it is noteworthy that they consistently offer diverse new posts every month.

One strength of the blog is its ability to highlight a wide range of source materials, including diaries, recipes, ballads, letters, and literature, blurring the line between history of medicine and medical humanities in an exciting way. Adhering to larger social media conventions, the editors also occasionally select topical posts that playfully coincide with holidays: “Coming down with a dose of Witchcraft – a Halloween special” and “Hearts that Ache and Burn” for a bit of heartburn history on Valentine’s Day. The authors work to engage with some of the similar blogs included in their Blogroll, often picking up on a conversation started elsewhere or concluding an entry by citing similar posts. Overall, Early Modern Medicine offers an engaging entry into the social world of bodies, health care, and gender in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Perhaps some additional improvements to style and presentation, as well as a strategic reflection and refocusing of content around the strengths and scope of this blog, would help to...