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Full Access Syphilis, Sex, and Marriage in Early Modern Spain

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Syphilis, Sex, and Marriage in Early Modern Spain

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Although scholarship on the early modern syphilis epidemic has greatly increased our understanding of the medical, institutional, and individual responses to this illness, little is known about patients’ familial and personal lives beyond the hospital walls. Examining patients treated at Toledo’s Hospital de Santiago in the mid-seventeenth century, this article analyzes their attitudes towards sexuality and marriage as they lived with chronic venereal disease. Produced in a post-Tridentine context that ideally emphasized individual control of sexual sin, the hospital and notarial records patients left behind reveal ambivalence towards sexuality and marriage. Not only did competing messages on sexuality affect patients who displayed expressive sexual lives under specific circumstances, but only those who engaged communal networks, socioeconomic position, and medical assumptions on sexuality and disease successfully managed to marry.

Affiliations: 1: Bishop’s University Canada

10.1163/157006511X565521
/content/journals/10.1163/157006511x565521
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Although scholarship on the early modern syphilis epidemic has greatly increased our understanding of the medical, institutional, and individual responses to this illness, little is known about patients’ familial and personal lives beyond the hospital walls. Examining patients treated at Toledo’s Hospital de Santiago in the mid-seventeenth century, this article analyzes their attitudes towards sexuality and marriage as they lived with chronic venereal disease. Produced in a post-Tridentine context that ideally emphasized individual control of sexual sin, the hospital and notarial records patients left behind reveal ambivalence towards sexuality and marriage. Not only did competing messages on sexuality affect patients who displayed expressive sexual lives under specific circumstances, but only those who engaged communal networks, socioeconomic position, and medical assumptions on sexuality and disease successfully managed to marry.

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/content/journals/10.1163/157006511x565521
2011-01-01
2016-12-10

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