Dr Elaine Leong wins Margaret W. Rossiter Prize for her book "Recipes and Everyday Knowledge"

15 August 2019

UCL History is delighted to anounce that Dr Elaine Leong has been awarded the Margaret W. Rossiter Prize her your book "Recipes and Everyday Knowledge: Medicine, Science, and the Household in Early Modern England" at the History of Science Society conference 2019.

recipes and everyday knowledge

1. Congratulations on winning the Margaret W. Rossiter Prize for your book "Recipes and Everyday Knowledge: Medicine, Science, and the Household in Early Modern England" at the History of Science Society conference 2019. Can you tell us a little about what the book is about?

Recipes and Everyday Knowledge offers a window into the rich and diverse knowledge practices in early modern English households. Examining a range of sources such as recipe books, letters and more, it brings into focus what I term ‘household science’ - that is quotidian investigations of the natural world – and situates these within larger and current conversations about gender and cultural history, the history of the book and archives and the history of science, medicine and technology. Using a number of case studies, I argue that household science involved a range of activities from conducting structured, multi-stepped recipe trials to gaining in-depth knowledge about the natural and material world. I also show that knowledge-making in the home was deeply framed by a number of concerns from social obligations to household economies to family strategies.

2. How does this book link with your wider research interests?

As a historian, I’m fascinated by the everyday with a focus on quotidian knowledge practices. Broadly, my work explores how natural knowledge, particularly knowledge about health and the body, is produced and used. Many of my projects explore reading and writing practices as epistemic processes. In Recipes and Everyday Knowledge, I analyse marginal and interlineal scribbles to offer a nuanced view of science in the household. By peeling back layers of annotations, I recover the multi-stepped processes employed by householders to try, test and experiment upon recipe knowledge. For me, recovering the everyday knowledge practices of the household is crucial as it pushes us to recognize that exploration of the natural world can happen in the humblest circumstances and conducted by a wide range of actors.

3. Looking ahead, what are your current research plans?

My current book project, Reading Riviére in Early Modern England, explores the making and transfer of medical knowledge through the lens of one book – the Praxis medica penned by the 17th century French physician and professor Lazare Rivière. I trace the Praxis medica’s journey as it travels from the lecture halls in Montpellier to English homes, using the Rivière story to open a broad exploration of health-related knowledge practices conducted by a wide range of actors from hack writers and translators to 18th century housewives. By examining processes such as the written codification of oral knowledge, textual translation, commercial printing and note-taking practices, I analyse the significant epistemic shifts rendered by reading and writing practices, and reconstruct itineraries of knowledge transfer. More broadly, my project aims to question the process and impact of vernacularization - destabilising categories such as ‘learned’ and ‘lay’, ‘domestic and ‘commercial’, as well as notions of a distinctly ‘English’ medical tradition.