The Well-Tempered Chase: Hunting, Emotions and Health in Early Modern Europe

Building on the classical trope of the hunt as the ‘mirror of war’, this exercise is generally conceptualised as an agonistic and antagonistic ritual designed to display and reinforce the authority of European male elites. Early modern treatises on hunting, however, evoked semantic fields that extended beyond that of warcraft, praising the pursuit of prey as a useful and pleasurable form of recreation. Contemporary health regimens similarly celebrated hunting for its unique power to positively affect body and spirit in equal measure. Since a pleasant hunt could easily degenerate into an uncontrolled spectacle of violence and cruelty, these prescriptive texts provided guidance on how to manage affective stimuli connecting human and animal agents with the natural landscape in order to enjoy all the advantages of a well-tempered chase. Through a systematic and comparative study of treatises on the hunt (volery and venery) and preventive medical manuals, this project proposes a novel framework to examine hunting as a form of affective exercise across early modern Europe.