Book Manuscript in Progress

How To Read Like an Experimenter: Medicine, Science, and Practical Books in England, 1400–1600

When you feel sick, you might Google your symptoms. When you need to change a bike tire, maybe you search YouTube for a step-by-step video. A world of medical, scientific, and technical information is now just a few clicks away, and yet, never has a society been less sure how to handle so much knowledge. How do we determine what’s effective, what’s useful, and what’s true? Six hundred years ago, English people seeking medical advice or technical know-how didn’t have Google or YouTube, but they were facing their own information revolution, built on a similarly transformative information technology: the how-to book. Like us, they found themselves with new access to a world of information, and, like us, they wondered how to make sense of it all. How to Read Like an Experimenter: Medicine, Science, and Practical Books in England, 1400–1600, tells the story of how English readers learned to master the information at their fingertips. In two centuries of everyday interactions with ordinary books, the English learned to use their experience to assess the validity and utility of medical and scientific knowledge and to embrace new roles as purveyors of that knowledge in their own right.

Peer-Reviewed Articles

“The ‘Sururgia’ of Nicholas Neesbett: Writing Medical Authority in Later Medieval England,” forthcoming in the journal Social History of Medicine.

“‘Here is a good boke to lerne’: Practical books, the coming of the press, and the search for knowledge, ca. 1400–1560,” Journal of British Studies 58, no. 2 (April 2019): 259–288.
* Honorable mention, 2020 Society of Fellows in Critical Bibliography Essay Prize

Editions and Translations

Pamela Smith et al., eds., Secrets of Craft and Nature in Renaissance France: A Digital Critical Edition and English Translation of Bibliothèque nationale de France MS Fr. 640, (as four-year member of the translation and transcription team)
* Winner, Eugene S. Ferguson Prize, Society for the History of Technology

Selected Book Reviews

Peter Lake and Michael Questier, All Hail to the Archpriest: Confessional Conflict, Toleration, and the Politics of Publicity in Post-Reformation England (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019), The English Historical Review 136, no. 577 (January 2021).

Sharon Strocchia and Sara Ritchey, eds., Gender, Health, and Healing, 1250–1550 (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2020), forthcoming in Renaissance Quarterly.

Work in Progress

“Hoarding How-to Knowledge, or, The Space Between Reading and Doing,” an invited essay for the journal History of the Natural Sciences (in preparation)

Public-Facing Scholarship


“Communication failures in a pandemic can be catastrophic,” The Washington Post, March 18, 2020.

“The key to lowering America’s high rates of maternal mortality,” The Washington Post, May 8, 2019.

Scholarly Blog Posts

“Perpetual Prognostications: Medieval Recipes for Living,” The Recipes Project: Food, Magic, Art, Magic, and Medicine, October 1, 2020

“A Recipe for Reproductive Healthcare,” The Recipes Project: Food, Magic, Art, Magic, and Medicine, June 27, 2019

“But does it work? Playful magic and the question of a recipe’s purpose,” The Recipes Project: Food, Magic, Art, Magic, and Medicine, January 24, 2019

Podcast Presentations

“A Late Medieval ‘How To’ Book,” recorded for 90Second Narratives, March 15, 2021.

“Communcations Failures from the Fifteenth Century are Still Happening Today,” recorded for Policy Punchline, April 21, 2020.

You can also find me tweeting on behalf of The Recipes Project at @historecipes.