Please tell us about your research project.
I am currently writing a thesis titled “Artisans of remedies: material culture and everyday work of apothecaries in Paris (1700-1777)”, under the supervision of Pr Rafael Mandressi at EHESS University in Paris. More specifically, I study the material culture (objects, spaces, people) in apothecaries’ everyday work and activities, from houses to gardens and communal spaces. I draw from a wide variety of sources, including post-mortem inventories, Parisian apothecaries’ guild’s archives (meeting minutes, financial ledges), pharmacopeias and pharmacy textbooks, and artefacts from museums (wood boxes, pots, tools, etc.).
I explore the identity of apothecaries as multifaceted experts at the crossroads of medical, artisanal, and commercial knowledge, as well as the extent of their activities (teaching, preparing remedies, political involvement). The history of pharmacy has often placed alternatively the shop, the apothecaries themselves, or chemical instruments at the core of pharmacy practice. Even though these elements were central, my research shifts the attention to domestic and communal spaces, which fully took part in the remedy confection (from the cave to the attic). This entailed not only the daily collaboration of the wife, apprentices and servants, but also the transmission of practical knowledge to apprentices. Apothecaries’ practice was broad and spanned from the knowledge of matter, to the use of cooking tools, or the account keeping. Across the century, the place of transmission of botanical, medical, and chemical knowledge seemed to expand to the Apothecaries’ garden (located at rue de l’Arbalète), where the apothecaries’ guild invested a lot of money to refurbish or to build a cabinet and a library.
Here in Oxford, I am particularly interested in seeing the History of Science Museum collections, for example a portable materia medica cabinet for teaching, as well as working with the researchers of the Center for the History of Science, Medicine and Technology.
Could you please tell us a bit more about your scholarship/exchange programme?
I obtained a scholarship to stay in Oxford for 3 months (October-December 2022) thanks to the International Exchange Department at EHESS.
First impressions of Oxford/the University?
Staying at the Maison Française d’Oxford is a great opportunity to build connections with researchers in Oxford and have access to a wide range of museums and libraries. So far, Oxford is a very charming and dynamic city. All around, the monuments and buildings are charged with their own history and organise many different events giving to anyone an opportunity to learn something new. Yet Oxford remains a human scale city with a vibrant and welcoming community. The University societies and clubs are a good way to meet lots of people and discover the most iconic places, pubs and cafes in Oxford, with fun!