exploring recipe books from the seventeenth-century

Safeguarding Pregnancy project

So, my work on “mood food” is basically complete, and my other line of research which I now want to focus on is about gender and the recipe books. As this is my current line of research it will be a lot less polished than the entries on melancholy which was more of a retrospective blog really. These entries will be more of a work-in-progress type thing; they’ll include summaries and comments on related articles that I’m reading and how I think they could be useful in my research, there will also be recipes that I’ve found (some analysed properly as historical sources) and more posts on the research process, gathering ideas etc.

I initially became interested in looking at gender and the cookery collection because many of the texts are instruction manuals aimed at women, telling them how to be a perfect woman (well housewife actually but hey, we’re in the seventeenth-century, what’s the difference?), were written by men. The other aspect of gender which interested me was how these books, acting as manuals of womanhood, would probably have been passed down from mother to daughter adding to a female-life-cycle-type-theme.

Gender being far too large a topic, especially when I only have 12 weeks research time, I started narrowing it down by looking at recipes specifically for female problems. There are loads, unsurprisingly chiefly concerned with motherhood.  Recipes:

  • for plasters for sore breasts,
  •  ‘for the mother’ (the womb was then referred to as the mother),
  • to procure conception,
  • ‘for a woman that hath her flowers (oh the euphemisms!) too much’/ ‘to stay the flowers’/’to cause a woman to have her sickness’,
  • ‘for greensickness’ (anaemia),
  • to prevent miscarrying,
  • to cause easy labour,
  • ‘for the dead child inside the womans body’,
  • ‘to deliver a child in danger’,
  • ‘to cure them that have pain after child-bearing’,
  • ‘to increase a womans milk ‘ the list goes on.

Many of these are not quite as innocent as they seem as I will reveal soon…


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The Recipes Project

exploring recipe books from the seventeenth-century

Early Modern Medicine

A blog about bodies and medicine c.1500 - 1780

Wellcome Collection Blog

The blog for the incurably curious

Wellcome Trust Blog

Life from a Wellcome Trust perspective

Eighteenth-century recipes

Remedies, recipes and domestic life

Dr Lindsey Fitzharris

Medical historian, Writer and Television Presenter.

Bethlem Blog

Bethlem Royal Hospital Archives and Museum

Everything Early Modern Women

All things to do with the study of early modern women.

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