Giovanni Pozzetti

Giovanni Pozzetti

PhD Candidate and Postgraduate Tutor

Summary: Thesis: "Diet, health and identity in early modern England and Italy: A comparative study of the application and understanding of Galenic principles"

I am an early modern historian. My interests span from gender history to the history of medicine. I am also interested in the theoretical dimensions of production of historical knowledge. I received both my BA in Cultural Heritage and my MA in History and Geography of Europe at the University of Verona (Italy). I joined the School of History at the University of Leeds for my PhD on 1st October 2014. I have also studied as a software engineer in the past. While spending August 2016 at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin, I have collaborated with the EMROC project on transcribing manuscript books of recipes online and in handling software issues related to the transcribing process. I try to share my passion about history beyond my job as a PhD student in collaborating with ItaLeeds and the Recipes Project.

My research 

Studies of early modern medicine tend to homogenise the reception of humoral medicine. Scarcely no comparative work has been done on how climate, culture and religion affected the interpretation of classical views on diet and informed local and regional dietary practices; the assimilation of humoral practices in domestic settings also needs work. I will use a broad range of material available in manuscript and print (by ‘celebrity’ chefs, compilers of family ‘recipes’ books, kitchen and household accounts, medical and husbandry literature, travel journals and histories) to explore the varied appropriation of humoral medicine and its impact on what and how people ate to restore and maintain health.

My project builds on the vast scholarship on food and health written in early modern Europe in the last decades and challenges the narrative of uniformity and homogeneity of healthcare and food habits across the European world that this literature underlines. Focusing on specific sets of ingredients, meat, dairy foods, herbs, roots and fruits and wine, my research analyses the discourses on food as a proper medical agent and as a commodity that embodies cultural values in early modern Italy and England. It will show how different practices and ideas on food and medicine were not only shared, but even acknowledged between these two contexts. Doing so, I hope to depart from a flat model of reception of medical knowledge in the early modern period and to gain a more nuanced and deeper understanding of the overlaps between food and medicine in different geographical, social and cultural contexts.

Funded by: WRoCAH - White Rose Network: Cultures of Consumption in Early Modern Europe.

1st Supervisor (Leeds): Dr. Alex Bamji.

2nd Supervisor (Sheffield): Prof. Cathy Shrank.

3rd Supervisor (Leeds): Prof. Stephen Alford.

Papers and Talks 

'The Good, the Bad and the Wormy: The Reputation of Cheese in Renaissance Medicine and Cuisine', 64th Renaissance Society of America Annual Meeting, New Orleans, 22-24 March 2018.

'"A hungry stomach rarely despises common food" - Medical Advice and Food Consumption in the Early Modern Period', Institute of Historical Research (IHR), Food History Seminar, London, 18 January 2017. 

'Balancing Taste and Nourishment in Early Modern Italy and England', Society for the Social History of Medicine (SSHM) Postgraduate Conference 'Health Histories: The Next Generation', Shanghai University, 12-13 October 2017.

'Cookery books and health regimens in the Renaissance. Challenges posed by printed texts in doing transnational food history', Health, Medicine and Society annual colloquium, University of Leeds, 1 June 2016.

'European Trends Between Cuisine and Medicine. Mutton and Lemon in France, England and Italy', 62nd Renaissance Society of America Annual Meeting, Boston, 31 March-2 April 2016.

'Beef in Early Modern England', Food as Medicine. Historical Perspectives, Dublin, 9-10 October 2015.

'The medical reputation of meat in early modern Italy and England', Health, Medicine and Society annual colloquium, University of Leeds, 3 June 2015.


Book Reviews

"Food and Health in Early Modern Europe. Diet, Medicine and Society, 1450-1800" by David Gentilcore - Bloomsbury, 2016, Cultural and Social History, 14 (5), pp. 735-736. DOI:

Teaching Commitments

HIST 1060 'Faith, Knowledge and Power 1500-1750' - (Seminar Tutor). BA-level introductory module on early modern Europe (2015/16 and 2016/17).

HIST 2220 'The body, disease and society, 1500-1750' - (Workshop facilitator) BA-level, 2nd year module on social and cultural history of medicine in early modern Europe.

Academic activities and responsibilities

PGR Representative, Health, Medicine and Society research group, University of Leeds (2015 - 2017).

One month residentship at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science (August 2016, Berlin, GER).

Conference Organisation

Habitual Behaviour in Early Modern Europe 1500-1750, University of Sheffield, 1-2 June 2017 (International conference - Co-organiser).

Health, Medicine and Society annual colloquium, University of Leeds, 1 June 2016 (Co-organiser).

Communication, Correspondance and Transmission in the Early Modern World, University of Leeds, 12-13 May 2016 (International conference - Co-organiser).

Public Outreach

(Do you fancy hearing something about how a major kitchen was run in the Renaissance?) ‘Scalchi, Trincianti and Assaggiatori: The Italian Culinary Tradition of the Renaissance’, ItaLeeds, University of Leeds, 8 March 2018.

(How do you like your toast?) ‘Burnt Toast, Medicine and Identity in (Early Modern?) England’, published on The Recipes Project: Food, Art, Science and Medicine’ blog (February 2017).

(The secret is in the dressing!) PechaKucha presentation (6 slides per 60 seconds format) to an audience of non-early-modernists, ‘Salads and Other Vegetarian Recipes in the Renaissance’, University of York, 30 June 2016.