Dr Justin Rivest

Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellow, Research Fellow, Clare Hall

I grew up on a farm in Ontario and earned a BHum (2008) and MA (2010) from Carleton University and a PhD in the History of Medicine (2016) from Johns Hopkins University.

My research explores the early modern origins of the pharmaceutical industry. My PhD dissertation at Johns Hopkins studied royal monopoly privileges (the ancestors of modern drug patents) and familial drug monopolies. I have continued my research at the University of Cambridge, where I collaborated with Dr Emma Spary on a project entitled “Selling the Exotic in Paris and Versailles, 1670-1730,” which explored the importation of exotic plant substances into France. I am completing a monograph on early pharmaceutical monopolists and their role in supplying standardized drugs to large-scale consumers such as the French army, navy, overseas trading companies, and missionary societies circa 1670-1750.

I’ve taught on a variety of subjects, ranging from surveys of European history and the history of medicine to an upper-year history of science seminar on alchemy and astrology in early modern Europe.

At Cambridge I offer supervisions for Part II Paper 11 (Early Medicine) and Paper 14 (Material Culture), as well as sessions on French sources for the MPhil paleography workshop. In Lent 2020 I began teaching option iv of the Part I Themes and Sources Paper, “Remaking the Modern Body.”


Tags & Themes


Faculty of History, West Road, Cambridge CB3 9EF


Key Publications

‘Beyond the pharmacopoeia? Secret Remedies, Exclusive Privileges, and Trademarks in Early Modern France’, in Drugs on the Page: Pharmacopoeias in the Early Modern Atlantic World, edited by Matthew Crawford and Joseph Gabriel, pp. 81-100. University of Pittsburgh Press, 2019. https://www.upress.pitt.edu/books/9780822945628/

‘The Chymical Capuchins of the Louvre: Seminal Principles and Charitable Vocations in France under Louis XIV’, Ambix: The Journal of the Society for the Study of Alchemy and Early Chemistry, vol. 65, no. 3 (2018): 275-295. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00026980.2018.1512781

‘Testing Drugs and Attesting Cures: Pharmaceutical Privileges and Military Contracts in Eighteenth-Century France,’ Bulletin of the History of Medicine, vol. 91 (2017): 393-421.


‘Secret Remedies and the Medical Needs of the French state: The Career of Adrien Helvétius, 1662–1727’, Canadian Journal of History / Annales canadiennes d’histoire, vol. 51, no. 3 (2016): 473-499


Co-authored with Alisha Rankin: ‘Medicine, Monopoly, and the Premodern State: Early Clinical Trials’, The New England Journal of Medicine 375 (July 14, 2016): 106-109.