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Jeu de la paume: Health of the Body and the Mind in Early Modern Medicine

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This article deals with the role that gymnastics and particularly the game of handball (pila palmaria) played in early modern medicine. The game was seen as useful in order to foster good health, both of the body and the mind. Following the tradition of ancient medical sources, early modern philosophers, physicians, ball players and authors – such as Erasmus, Mercuriale, Scaino, Valleriola, Forbet and Hulpeau – elaborated a rich repertory of ideas demonstrating the impact of ball games on the education of young people, on the therapy for various diseases, and on the prevention of illness. Pila palmaria thus enjoyed a dual status, since it could act on the body through physical exercise and on the mind thanks to the pleasure produced in the player’s spirit.

Affiliations: 1: Université François-Rabelais, Tours, France,


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