Listening to Quackery: Reading John Wesley’s Primitive Physic in an Age of Health Care Reform



This article uses a reading of John Wesley's Primitive Physic, or An Easy and Natural Method of Curing Most Diseases (1747) to resist the common rejection—often as "quackery"—of Wesley's treatments for common maladies. We engage Wesley not because he was right but because his approach offers useful moments of pause in light of contemporary medical epistemology. Wesley's recommendations were primarily oriented towards the categories of personal responsibility and capability, but he also sought to empower individuals—especially the poor—with the knowledge to safely and affordably treat maladies of their own. We leverage Primitive Physic to rethink contemporary medical knowledge production, especially as sanctioned by randomized clinical trials and legitimate views of experience and contemporary institutions such as the AMA. Ultimately, we suggest that the medical humanities has a key role to play in mining the discarded and dismissed for what they can tell scholars about medical knowledge.


Quackery Epistemology John Wesley Foucault Mill Medical humanities 


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Social Medicine, Heritage College of Osteopathic MedicineOhio UniversityDublinUSA
  2. 2.Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology programThe Seattle School of Theology and PsychologySeattleUSA

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