By Katherine Allen
Master’s Thesis, University of Saskatchewan, 2011
Abstract: This thesis examines the role of eighteenth-century recipe collections within a social milieu fixated on natural philosophy and experimental discovery. As medical sources, recipe collections have allowed historians to investigate approaches to early modern sickness alongside gender and class constructs surrounding authorship and readership. Little attention, however, has been given to the distinct nature of eighteenth-century collections and their place within the history of science. This thesis uses the manuscript of Elizabeth Jenner, an eighteenth-century compiler and distillation enthusiast, to explore how distillation of medicinal remedies established its place in the eighteenth century as a leisure pursuit of scientifically accomplished recipe compilers. This study offers a new perspective on the role of trust and credibility in eighteenthcentury culture – beyond the confines of elite scientific societies – by analyzing the authorship strategies and scientific rhetoric found in recipe collections used to establish confidence of efficacy in remedies. Equipment and distillation techniques used in domestic medicine are explored to stress the kitchen’s role as a multi-purpose and non-feminized space of scientific inquiry. As a space, the household is also a location of production and consumption within the medical marketplace and the broader economy. From everyday commodities to exotic botanicals, the materia medica used in recipes highlight the role of domestic medicine within the consumer revolution and an emerging British empire. This project contributes to a number of historiographies by addressing the value of recipe collections as sources of science, consumerism, and material history, permitting further consideration of the significance of domestic medical activities as part of the vibrant intellectual and socio-economic environment of the eighteenth century. This historical re-appraisal of the eighteenth-century recipe collection aims to uncover the often unassuming roles of England’s domestic chemists.