Journal of Early Modern Studies

Volume 11, Issue 1, Spring 2022

Philosophy, Religion, and Science in Seventeenth-Century England

Benjamin I. Goldberg
Pages 37-68

Concepts of Experience in Royalist Recipe Collections

This essay explores the idea of experience and its epistemological and practical role in maintaining the health of a household among early modern English Royalists. A number of prominent royalists during the mid-seventeenth century British Civil Wars expended quite some effort in the collection of medical recipes, including Queen Henrietta Maria herself, as well as William and Margaret Cavendish, and the Talbot sisters—Elizabeth Grey and Alethea Howard. This essay looks at these Royalists and four of their collections: three published (Henrietta Maria, Grey, Howard), and one manuscript (the Caven­dishes), in order to determine how they conceptualized experience and its role in medical practice. The claim that such recipe collections represent a new, anti-Aristotelian idea of experience as a specific, particular event is disputed through a quantitative and qualitative analysis of these collections. Instead, it is argued that there a number of related conceptions of experience found in these Royalist recipe collections, but the basic idea is one where experience indicates long experience or expertise, an idea that can traced back at least to humanist medicine of the Renaissance, and likely back to Galen.