Northern Centre for the History of Medicine and Medical Humanities

Natalie Hawkes

PhD Student in the History of Medicine
School of History, Classics and Archaeology, Newcastle University

I completed a PhD in the History of Medicine, under the supervision of Dr Thomas Rütten and Professor Tony Spawforth, and passed my viva in January, 2014.

My thesis focuses on the career of Antoine Vallot (1595/6–1671), who worked as premier médecin du roi (Chief Physician to the King) to Louis XIV of France from 1652 to 1671. In the position of premier médecin, Vallot participated in some of early modern France’s most important political and medical developments. Yet without a single substantial biography to his name, he remains the least studied of the three successive premiers médecins who cared for Louis XIV during his personal reign. My thesis will attempt to rectify this disparity, but not through the means of a traditional biography. Instead, it aims to shed greater light upon Vallot, and his place in the world around him as premier médecin, through an exploration of his interactions with contemporaries.
The royal court of France, and the kingdom’s wider medical profession, provide the two main backdrops for my thesis. The relationships which Vallot sustained within these two environments are explored with the help of a broad range of source material, including personal correspondence, archival records from the king’s household and Vallot’s medical record for Louis XIV. Within the source material relating to the royal court, a picture emerges of an extremely prolific physician whose professional popularity contrasted with a distinct lack of social significance. Although this social shortcoming was exacerbated by a tumultuous relationship with the royal medical team, Vallot’s exchanges with some of the court’s most important ministers reveal the achievements he accomplished within another dynamic sphere of court life: patronage. In the kingdom’s medical profession, Vallot kept a measured distance from the heated medical discourse of his day. Yet behind this distance lay ambitious plans to secure a uniquely authoritative voice within the medical world as premier médecin. Throughout my thesis attention is drawn to the emerging continuities that can be traced between Vallot’s experiences in the role of premier médecin, and those of his better-known professional successors.


Research Interests

• The history of medicine, particularly during the early modern period
• The history of court societies, especially scientific and medical developments within these spheres
• Biography


Curriculum Vitae

In 2006 I was awarded first-class honours for BA Ancient History at Royal Holloway, University of London. In 2008, I was awarded a distinction for MA History of Medicine at Newcastle University. My Masters dissertation was entitled, ‘Medical Scandal at the Court of Louis XIV: An Investigation into the Dismissal of Antoine Daquin – Premier Médecin from 1672 to 1693’.


Prizes

• 2012: Iain M. Lonie PhD Completion Award
• 2008: Pybus Prize - awarded by Newcastle University’s Centre for the History of Medicine for outstanding performance in Masters study
• 2006: Driver Prize – awarded by Royal Holloway, University of London’s Classics Department for excellent performance


Studentships

• 2008–11: Wellcome Trust Doctoral Studentship
• 2007–8: Masters Studentship in the History of Medicine (Northern Centre)


Publications

• ‘Doctors in the Palace’: report for conference held on court medicine at the London School of Economics from 21st to 22nd June 2012. See The Court Historian 17 (2012): 263–5.

In 2009 I also contributed to the research project, 'La Médecine à la cour de France', coordinated by Jacqueline Vons (Université François-Rabelais, Tours) for cour-de-france.fr. My contributions included:
• A biography of Antoine d’Aquin (chief physician to Louis XIV from 1672-1693)
• A biographical database entry for Antoine d’Aquin


Papers

• ‘Shared Futures: Antoine Vallot, Guy-Crescent Fagon and the premier médecin in Louis XIV’s Reign’, presented at ‘Futures’: a postgraduate study day organised by the Association for the Study of Modern and Contemporary France and the Society for the Study of French History, Sheffield University, 3rd March 2012
• ‘Antoine Vallot and Seventeenth-Century Chemical Medicine’, presented at ‘“The Burthen of the Mortal Body”: Life, Death, Sickness and Health in the Early Modern Period’, Exeter University, 24th August 2010
• Short paper on doctoral research presented at: ‘Pouvoir médical et fait du prince au début des temps modernes’, Université François-Rabelais de Tours, 18th June 2010
• Two papers on doctoral research presented at Newcastle University’s School of Historical Studies’ Postgraduate Forum Lunchtime Seminars (2009 and 2010)


Teaching

In the academic year 2010/11, I provided two lectures and accompanying seminars for the undergraduate module, ‘Approaches to the History of Medicine’ (HIS2078) at Newcastle University.


Other Information

For the academic year 2009/10 I acted as Editor in Chief for the School of Historical Studies’ Postgraduate Forum at Newcastle University. In this role, I was responsible for both the upkeep of the Postgraduate Forum’s website, and the publication of its annual e-Journal.

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