An Interactive Annotated World Bibliography of Printed and Digital Works in the History of Medicine and the Life Sciences from Circa 2000 BCE to 2022 by Fielding H. Garrison (1870-1935), Leslie T. Morton (1907-2004), and Jeremy M. Norman (1945- ) Traditionally Known as “Garrison-Morton”

16011 entries, 14068 authors and 1941 subjects. Updated: June 22, 2024

EVANS, Jennifer

1 entries
  • 10422

Aphrodisiacs, fertility and medicine in early modern England.

London: Royal Historical Society, 2014.

This work "... in its extensive study of gynecological treatises from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, provides an important intervention into assumptions about the subversive quality of aphrodisiacs and abortifacients. Rather than reading the imbibing of these substances as women’s taking control of their bodies and their sexuality, Evans considers these medicines as having “a legitimate place in medical treatments for infertility” (174) in the early modern period. Most of her scholarship works to articulate that “legitimate place” through citing print midwifery treatises and other medical texts, but she also calls upon broadside ballads, manuscript recipes, pornographic literature, and witchcraft pamphlets to argue for the presence that “printed medical literature” had in less authoritative discourse and, perhaps, vice versa.

"Evans’s work is most impressive in its survey of the medical literature, which includes not only the well-known midwifery manuals of Nicholas Culpepper and Jane Sharp but also more obscure anonymous texts. Occasionally her analysis will distinguish between works by licensed practitioners and those by others, but the accumulation of examples across the print record provides persuasive evidence supporting the ubiquity of the practices she describes. Through these practices, early modern individuals expressed the belief that sexual arousal and fulfillment were the keys to fertility; thus fertility itself, not arousal and fulfillment, was the goal of undertaking these practices. In this discussion, Evans considers aphrodisiacs for both men and women as addressing the same problem — infertility — thus providing a corrective to the contention that medical discourse placed the sole blame for infertility on the woman. Similarly, emmenagogues, medicines that “bring down the terms” or menstruation, were conceived as part of a regimen that established regular menstrual health and therefore contributed to women’s fertility" (

Subjects: COUNTRIES, CONTINENTS AND REGIONS › England (United Kingdom), OBSTETRICS & GYNECOLOGY › GYNECOLOGY › Infertility, PHARMACOLOGY › History of Pharmacology & Pharmaceuticals, SEXUALITY / Sexology › History of Sexuality / Sexology, WOMEN in Medicine & the Life Sciences, Publications About, WOMEN, Publications by › Years 2000 -