Introduction: Centre and periphery in the eighteenth-century Habsburg ‘medical empire’
This paper introduces a collection of essays exploring different aspects of the relationship between medical knowledge and administration in the Habsburg Monarchy. The collection brings together a range of perspectives upon the confrontation between programmes for centralised medical bureaucracy emanating from Vienna, and their implementation in a variety of different cultural, linguistic, social and practical circumstances. Such confrontations raise issues about the nature and limits of enlightened universalism, the relationship between knowledge and government in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and the similarities between the processes of centralisation and the issues addressed by historians of empire. The case of Gerard van Swieten, Catholic Dutch medical practitioner appointed as the chief physician to the Habsburg Imperial family, is used to illustrate some of the main issues involved.