'A Cheap, Safe and Natural Medicine'

Religion, Medicine and Culture in John Wesley’s Primitive Physic

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John Wesley’s Primitive Physic (1747) achieved twenty-three editions in his lifetime, ensuring its popular – and controversial – status in eighteenth-century medicine.
This is the first full-length study to examine the theological, intellectual and cultural background to one of the period’s most successful medical texts. By exploring Wesley’s work in the context of his theology, ‘ A Cheap, Safe and Natural Medicine’ extends the on-going reconfiguration of the relationship between religion and medicine.
Wesley was on a theological mission to recover the primitive purity of the first Christians. Yet the remedies contained within Primitive Physic suggest a pragmatic thinker, whose concern for spiritual health did not prevent him from providing practical assistance to those who needed it. The evolution of Wesley’s thinking also demonstrates some of the struggles he faced as leader of the Methodist movement, such as the way he handled contemporary criticism of Primitive Physic when religious ‘enthusiasm’ was often conflated with medical ‘quackery’.
'A Cheap, Safe and Natural Medicine' will be of interest not only to medical and literary historians, but to anyone who is interested in the way religion influences medicine.
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Biographical Note

Deborah Madden is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Theology Faculty at the University of Oxford. Currently, she is completing a book, The Paddington Prophet, about the self-styled prophet, Richard Brothers (1757–1824), as part of the ‘Prophecy Project’ at Oxford.

Review Quotes

"An interesting sidelight into a rarely studied aspect of Wesley’s make up."
– in: SciTech Book News, June 2008

" A Cheap, Safe and Natural Medicine does a nice job in capturing the whole of Wesley’s thought—not only the theological but the medicinal…. I am reminded of just how closely Wesley and the early Methodists viewed the relationship between spiritual and physical well being. I am grateful to Deborah Madden’s engaging work for helping me see this connection more clearly."
– in: Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences 63/4 (October 2008)

"Deborah Madden’s A Cheap, Safe and Natural Medicine is a valuable addition to The Wellcome Series in the History of Medicine, as it is the first book-length, scholarly study devoted to providing a range of detailed biographical and cultural contexts for comprehending the significance of Wesley’s medical manual. [A] useful study that will be of interest to anyone concerned with the inter-relationship between religion and medicine in the period."
– in: Social History of Medicine, June 2009

"In an impressive monograph, notable for the thoroughness with which most of the recent secondary literature has been assimilated, Deborah Madden offers a systematic study of Wesley’s motivation and its grounding in his primitive Christianity… one of the real strengths of Madden’s analysis is her identification of the several levels at which Wesley’s eclectic theology did shape his medical priorities… she is surely correct, in principle, to say that […] Wesley’s eyes were focused on the natural, not the supernatural."
– in: Medical History 53/4 (2009), 618-619

Table of contents

Preface
Acknowledgements

PART I: THE MEDICAL HOLISM OF PRIMITIVE PHYSIC
1 Introduction: Primitive Physic Explain’d in an Easy and Natural Method
2 John Wesley’s Hermeneutics of Primitive Christianity and Practical Piety
3 Experience and the Common Interest of Mankind: Physic, an Art or Science in Eighteenth-Century England?
4 Preserving Health, or a Few Plain and Easy Rules

PART II: PRIMITIVE PHYSIC: ‘A COLLECTION OF RECEIPTS’
5 Primitive Physic: Cheap, Safe and Natural Medicine for Health and Long Life
6 Conclusion: The Search for Pristine Purity

Bibliography
Index

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