Professor David Gentilcore

Professor of Early Modern History

David GentilcoreContact Details

  • Tel: +44 (0)116 252 2834
  • Email:
  • Office: Attenborough 510
  • Office Hour: Semester 1, Thursday 11am - 12pm and 3pm - 4pm
  • Dissertation Office Hour: Friday 12am - 1pm
  • Research Day: Tuesday


My interests lie in the medical, dietary, social and cultural history of early- and late-modern Italy, and have ranged from studies on popular religion during the Counter-Reformation, healers and healing in the Kingdom of Naples, the licensing and operations of medical charlatans in early modern Italy, through to food and health in early- and late-modern Europe as a whole. My current project builds on a study of the reception and assimilation of New World plants, like the tomato and the potato, to look at the impact of maize on Italian society, in particular the pellagra epidemic that ravaged north-eastern Italy from 1750 to 1930.

I joined the Department of History at the Leicester in 1994 as Wellcome Trust Lecturer in the History of Medicine, following a research fellowship at the Cambridge Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine, and a stint as director of the Canadian Academic Centre in Italy (Rome). I am the author of seven books and was awarded the Royal Society of Canada’s ‘Jason A. Hannah’ medal for Medical charlatanism in early modern Italy (Oxford 2006) and, in 2012, the ‘Salvatore De Renzi International Prize’ by the Università degli Studi di Salerno for my work in the history of medicine. I am book reviews editor for the peer-reviewed journal Food & History (published by the European Institute for the History and Cultures of Food & Brepols).

During 2003-8, I was a core member of the Wellcome Trust Strategic Award in ‘Cultures and Practices of health’, held jointly at the Universities of Warwick and Leicester. I have been visiting fellow at the School of Advanced Study, University of London; Hannah Visiting Professor at McMaster University, Canada (2001-2); visiting professor at Villa I Tatti, The Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies (Florence, 2006). I held a Leverhulme Trust Major Research Fellowship (2007-10) to pursue my project on the reception and assimilation of New World plants in Italy. I am currently Principal Investigator on the ‘Rough Skin’ Project funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (2013-16), which investigates the effects of the pellagra epidemic.


PhD Supervision

Social, cultural and religious history (early modern Italy); social history of medicine (early modern Europe); history of food, diet and health (early- and late-modern Europe)


I teach a range of undergraduate modules on the history of early modern Europe, including, ‘Food, diet and health in early modern Europe’ (third year option), and contribute to ‘Varieties of Cultural History’. At the MA level, I teach a module entitled ‘Patients and Practitioners: The Patient-Practitioner Relationship in Early Modern Europe’.

Most Recent Publications

‘Louis Sambon and the clash of pellagra etiologies in Italy and the United States, 1904-15’, The Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, 2015, in press (epub available).

Food and health in early modern Europe: diet, medicine and society, 1450-1800 (London: Bloomsbury, 2015).

‘Peasants and pellagra in 19th-century Italy’, History Today, 64 (Sept, 2014), pp. 32-8.

‘“Con trattenimenti e buffoniane”. Ciarlatani, protomedici e le origini di un gruppo professionale’, in Interpretare e curare. Medicina nel Rinascimento, M. Conforti, A. Carlino, A. Clericuzio, eds. (Rome: Carocci, 2013).

Tempi sì calamitosi: epidemics and public health’, in A companion to early modern Naples, T. Astarita, ed. (Leiden: Brill, 2013), pp. 281-306.

‘“Italic scurvy”, “pellarina”, “pellagra”: medical reactions to a new disease in Italy, 1770-1830’, in A medical history of skin: scratching the surface, J. Reinarz and K. Siena, eds. (London: Pickering and Chatto, Studies for the Society for the Social History of Medicine, 2013), pp. 57-69.

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