This is my lucky year, but it comes at a price. Three grants came through. Three wishes, giving me a year in Germany.  My project, on the reception of New World medicinal plants in Reformation Germany, seems to have struck a cord and now it is up to me to bring this topic to life.

The two-week German Historical Institute took me along with 9 other doctoral students on a whirlwind tour that included archives in Speyer, Cologne, Koblenz, Düsseldorf, and Leipzig. I found you can’t learn paleography in one week, but you can develop a strategy and after that only practice makes you better. So I can only read a few words of that script I so confidently posted, but I can say it is probably 19th century, and the 16th century texts I work with look more curly and less spikey.

My favorite part of the GHI tour was the group discussion of each of our projects. We were all eager to get feedback on our ideas especially from such a supportive and experienced group. And each project posed an interesting and original historical question.


We each presented our project proposal to the group.

I flew home on July 9 for a week and then returned to Germany on July 17—this time to Wolfenbüttel on a Thyssen Grant. I have rooms in a picturesque house built in 1896 (bathroom down the hall) and I do research in a library housed in a 17th-century armory. There is a treasury of primary sources, and if I can’t do research here, I might as well hand in my reader’s card.

The first week I read through the pharmacy, herbal, and medical books in the stacks. The second week I ordered more in and read through them. This is week three and I’m going to look at 16th-century medical books written “for the common man.” Did new herbal medicines penetrate to this level?

1617 sign

What better place to do history?

Ah, the price. You don’t just get three wishes gratis. I miss my family. And what’s more, I miss my home, I miss my kitchen, and, yes, I miss my bathroom. But the good news is, I’m going home for a visit on Sept. 2. And when I return to Wolfenbüttel in mid-September, I will have a new apartment where I have every hope that my husband can join me and maybe even some of the children can visit.




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