The Concept of Heredity in the Later Middle Ages and the Early modern Period

A Cultural History

edited by Maaike van der Lugt and Charles de Miramon

Florence : Sismel (Micrologus Library 27), 2008 ISBN 978-88-8450-309-1

This book studies the cultural history of the concept of heredity during the later Middle Ages and the Early modern period. Interdisciplinary in approach, it combines the history of medicine, of science, theology, law, political theory and historiography. To be true, during the period under study, there was no general theory of heredity. Even though the functioning of medieval society was largely founded on kinship and hereditary transmission, there was no coherent ideology to justify this sociological rule. Moreover, learned discourse was often hostile to heredity. Medicine and physiognomy placed emphasis on the individual and often downplayed parental determinism. Theories of nobility exalted personal virtue, while depreciating ancestry. Christian theology insisted on the unity of humankind, a tendency that was still reinforced by Aristotelian philosophy.

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