2 Oct 2019

History and Alchemy

Ralph Bauer. The Alchemy of Conquest: Science, Religion, and the Secrets of the New World. University of Virginia Press (30 Sept. 2019)

Bruce T. Moran. Paracelsus, An Alchemical Life. Reaktion Books. (16 September)
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Ralph Bauer. The Alchemy of Conquest: Science, Religion, and the Secrets of the New World. University of Virginia Press (30 Sept. 2019)

Throughout his controversial life the alchemist, physician and social radical known as Paracelsus combined traditions that were magical and empirical, scholarly and folk, learned and artisanal. He endorsed both Catholic and Reformation beliefs, but believed devoutly in a female deity. He travelled constantly, learning and teaching a new form of medicine based on the experience of miners, bathers, alchemists, midwives, barber-surgeons and executioners. He argued for changes in the way the body was understood, how disease was defined and how treatments were created, but he was also moved by mystical speculations, an alchemical view of nature and an intriguing concept of creation.

Bruce T. Moran tells the story of how alchemy refashioned medical practice, and brings to light the ideas, workings and major texts of an important Renaissance figure, showing how his tenacity and endurance changed the medical world for the better, and brought new perspectives to the study of nature.


Ralph Bauer. The Alchemy of Conquest: Science, Religion, and the Secrets of the New World. University of Virginia Press (30 Sept. 2019)

This book explores the role that the verbal, conceptual, and visual language of alchemy played in the literature of the conquest of America and in the rise of an early modern paradigm of discovery in both science and international law. While the roots of the modern 'conquistadorial' attitude toward nature lie in late medieval alchemy, which fused Aristotelian reason with Christian apocalypticism in the militant context of crusade and spiritual conquest, this book argues that the modern idea of what it means to discover something has a colonial history in which conquest legitimated the modern (Baconian) idea of discovery by underwriting it with religious messianism and early modern state power. Thus, the book traces the intellectual and spiritual legacies of such late medieval alchemists as Roger Bacon, Arnald of Villanova, and Ramon Llull in the early modern literature of the conquest of America in texts written by authors such as Christopher Columbus, Amerigo Vespucci, Josâe de Acosta, Nicolâas Monardes, Walter Raleigh, Thomas Harriot, Francis Bacon, and Alexander von Humboldt.