Life and Limb: Technology, Surgery, and Bodily Loss in Early Modern Germany, 1500-1700


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




This project examines one of the gravest injuries that a human being can survive: the loss of a limb. The explosion of gunpowder warfare in the early modern period (c.1500-1700) drastically increased the number of those who suffered this loss. This project gives the first detailed account of these bodies in pain and reconstruction. Through medical treatises, archives, and artifacts, the project explores surgical and artisanal practices surrounding the body from the first signs of gangrene in a living limb to the polishing of a mechanical one. Over six chapters, it recreates the experiences of patients, surgeons, and those around them. Rather than a technical narrative, this project presents a social anatomy that uses an unexplored medical phenomenon to cut deep into the fabric of early modern communities.