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CMRS Symposium/Lecture: Kathleen Walker-Meikle (King's College, London) - "Rabies, Scabies, Beast and Man: Animals and Disease in the Medieval and Early Modern Period"

This lecture will discuss how two ailments, rabies and scabies, were ascribed to both animals and humans and are prime examples of diagnosis and treatment working across the species divide. Animals and humans, by sharing the same humoral framework, were not constructed as a separate category. Visual differences such as thick shaggy fur or skin colour were explained by internal humoral workings, but the basic framework stayed the same. I argue that it is essential to consider disease across species when studying premodern medical history, as ignoring its manifestations in animals greatly diminishes how people observed and understood disease that they encountered, whether on their own bodies or their livestock or pet dog. Both scabies and rabies were considered to be highly contagious, and I will also discuss how medical and veterinary authors, writing in different genres, understood the nature of contagion and how it might cross the species divide. The issue of human-animal interactions and resulting diseases could not be more timely or impactful, and this lecture hopes to centre historical zoonotic encounters as an essential part of the history of premodern medicine.

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