Healthy Living in Late Renaissance Italy (2013) -- Book review?

Medical History has received a review copy of Sandra Cavallo and Tessa Storey eds., Healthy Living in Late Renaissance Italy (2013).  A beautifully illustrated book on the health practices in Italy.  Any volunteer for reviewing this book?  




  • Focuses on past ideas and practices of healthy living
  • Crosses disciplinary boundaries between medical history, art history, and architectural history
  • Presents a unique study of everyday life in Renaissance Italy
  • Richly illustrated
  • Shows the role of health concerns in home design and material culture

Healthy Living in Late Renaissance Italy explores in detail the efforts made by men and women in late Renaissance Italy to stay healthy and prolong their lives. Drawing on a wide variety of sources - ranging from cheap healthy living guides in the vernacular to personal letters, conduct literature, household inventories, and surviving images and objects - this volume demonstrates that a sophisticated culture of prevention was being developed in sixteenth-century Italian cities. This culture sought to regulate the factors thought to influence health, and centred particularly on the home and domestic routines such as sleep patterns, food and drink consumption, forms of exercise, hygiene, control of emotions, and monitoring the air quality to which the body was exposed. Concerns about healthy living also had a substantial impact on the design of homes and the dissemination of a range of household objects. This study thus reveals the forgotten role of medical concerns in shaping everyday life and domestic material culture. However, medicine was not the sole factor responsible for these changes. The surge of interest in preventive medicine received new impetus from the development of the print industry. Moreover, it was fuelled by classical notions of wellbeing, re-proposed by humanist culture and by the new interest in geography and climates. Broader social and religious trends also played a key role; most significantly, the nexus between attention to one's health and spiritual and moral worth promoted both by new ideas of what constituted nobility and by the Counter-Reformation.

Six key areas were thought to influence the balance of 'humours' within the body and Healthy Living in Late Renaissance Italy is organised into six main chapters which reflect these concerns: Air, Exercise, Sleep, Food and Drink, Managing the Emotions, and Bodily Hygiene. The volume is richly illustrated, and offers an accessible but fascinating glimpse into both the domestic lives and health preoccupations of the early modern Italians.



Readership: Academics and students in the fields of history of medicine, social and cultural early modern history; material culture; art history; and museum studies