In the eighteenth-century Atlantic world, Christian men and women wrote often about the challenges of sickness and pain in their daily lives. These writings form an important body of manuscript and print materials, which show how early modern Christians experienced and narrated sickness through a retrospective framework that emphasized God’s providential direction in their lives. These narratives also serve as a foundation for a wider interrogation of a commonly held assumption of major intellectual histories: that with the Enlightenment came a corresponding decline of providential thought. I argue that the providential perspective that infused personal narrations of pain and suffering shaped Christians’ writings and responses to broader social developments, including the emergence of modern medicine, institutions of benevolence, and slavery. I also seek to enrich our understanding of the eighteenth-century Atlantic by integrating often-overlooked German-language sources.
I am honored and grateful to receive the support of the Martin Marty Center as I complete and revise my dissertation. I look forward to the Center’s community of fellows, directors, and public interlocutors. I know my writing will be improved and refined by this audience and its questions and insights. I am teaching a course in Healthcare Ethics this fall for RNs pursuing a BSN or an MSN, and I will be excited to meet with my Marty colleagues and discuss approaches to pedagogy that thoughtfully integrate research and teaching and that open the methods and critical questions of religious studies to other disciplines and important publics.