Of Airs and Waters (and Rice and Cheese): Public Health, Economy, and the Environment in late Renaissance Milan (1576-1700)
Lavinia Maddaluno completed a PhD in History at Cambridge in 2017. She has been Rome Fellow at the British School at Rome, Brill Fellow at the Scaliger Institute (Leiden) and assegnista di ricerca at the Università Federico II in Naples. Her central research question concerns the role of scientific knowledge production in the realization of ideas of wealth, state, and society in Europe in the Enlightenment. She is currently revising the manuscript of her first monograph, Science and political economy in enlightened Milan (1760s-1815), and shifting her research interests to cover the late Italian Renaissance, in particular the intersection between medical knowledge and models of management of natural resources in the Seicento.
This project explores how medical knowledge regarding the quality of airs and waters was produced in relation to models of land management, and of rice and cheese production in particular, in the Spanish Habsburg Duchy of Milan in the late Renaissance. It sets the goal of rethinking established narratives which emphasized the causal connection between the outbreaks of plague and the emergence of discourses on public health and the influence of water and air on the human body. The project also places medical knowledge at the intersection between surveying, agricultural practices and hydraulics, and focuses on the neglected role of engineers in orienting debates in the Health Boards, thus contributing to the history of early modern medicine, agriculture and food production, as well as to the history of the environment broadly intended as the understanding of the interconnections between different social actors in the process of managing natural resources. Through the use of archival materials such as litigations, petitions, survey reports, and maps, the project aims to give the first account of how actors such as physicians, engineers and farmers negotiated their space of authority while mediating between the imperatives of agricultural productivity and the preservation of public health in the Duchy of Milan between the sixteenth and the seventeenth centuries.