Imperfect Men

My latest article has just been made available open access. It explores how early modern medical writers understood male infertility and how surgeons used male fertility as a marker of good practice, particularly in hernia surgery.

Abstract:

Sewing wound after herniotomy. 1559 Credit: Wellcome Library, London.

Sewing wound after herniotomy. 1559
Credit: Wellcome Library, London.

Scholars of early modern gender and medicine have tended to focus on female infertility. Discussions that have included male reproductive failure have considered sexual ability and impotence, rather than infertility. Nonetheless, fathering children was important to male social standing and the fulfilment of their patriarchal roles. This article will demonstrate that male infertility was not absent from medical literature, but appeared in a variety of settings including tests for infertility, seventeenth-century handbills for treatments, and surgical treatises. It will show that medical and surgical writers accepted that men could be rendered infertile, but still sexually capable, in a variety of ways. Moreover, the article will show that seventeenth-century surgeons expected male readers to be concerned about their reproductive potential and constructed a framework of efficacy based upon their ability to secure on-going fertility.

You can read the full article here

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