The Miraculous Conformist: Valentine Greatrakes, the Body Politic and the Politics of Healing in Restoration Britain

Elmer, Peter (2012). The Miraculous Conformist: Valentine Greatrakes, the Body Politic and the Politics of Healing in Restoration Britain. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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Abstract

This monograph focuses on the life and career of the Irish gentleman and miracle healer, Valentine Greatrakes (1629-83), who achieved widespread celebrity in the mid 1660s for his ability to cure a range of ailments by touch or 'stroking' alone. In particular, his visit to England in the spring of 1666 drew vast crowds, and he was widely feted by a broad cross section of Restoration society, including senior clergymen, MPs and leading figures in the nascent scientific communities of London.

This is the first full-length study of Greatrakes and his mission to heal the sick, which aims to show how his reception was in large part shaped by the broader religious and political concerns of the day, particularly the widespread desire for the healing of religious and political divisions in the wake of the English civil wars and the return of the monarchy in 1660. In the process, I seek to show how Greatrakes and his audience invoked a range of popular beliefs, including witchcraft, in order to promote greater cohesion in the wider body politic of Restoration Britain.

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