Pills, corpses, cattle plague and beauty: Medical Enlightenment as literary strategy at the court of Mecklembourg-Schwerin
In the second half of the 18th century the court of Mecklembourg-Schwerin belonged – in an European perspective – to the periphery of Europe. Under the rule of duke Friedrich, called the pious, there had been two important changes in the political and educational structure of the duchy. Firstly, Ludwigslust, a very small town in the south of the territory, became the second residence of the duke’s family. At this place he devoted his life to music and opera. Compared to the modest financial resources of the duchy a file of famous European singers and instrumentalists frequented Ludwiglust. Secondly, a religious dispute between Lutherans and pietists, held at Rostock University came to an end by the walkout of the Rostock pietists in destination for Bützow where the duke had founded a new university in accordance with his religious convictions. Between 1760 and 1789 the duchy of Mecklembourg-Schwerin had two very small universities with few students. Both challenges led to enormous tensions on the administrative, educational, political and medical fields. The medical elite of the country – the medical professors of Rostock and Bützow universities and la maison médicale, the physicians, surgeons and apothecaries at court – did not remain to be untouched.
The paper will show how the new conditions produced a changed standing of the medical staff at court and at university. First of all it will analyze the inner differentiation of the healing personal at both residences. The new court in Ludwigslust necessitated not just an own medical staff recruited partly by the medical professors of Bützow. After just a few years there are two maisons médicaux. A hitherto unknown situation and atmosphere of contest and rivalry can be reproduced in a flood of medical publications especially in the newspaper of the court residence Schwerin. The authors, academic teachers in Bützow and physicians in Bützow and Schwerin, focused their attention on epidemics, medical superstition and new therapeutic means, measures and drugs. The articles were addressed to an informed readership outside of the courts. In this public sphere of the media one could perceive glimmering traces of anything which deserves to be discussed in the concept of enlightened discourses of elites in a provincialized Enlightenment (Georges Rousseau).