The word risk came into English in the late medieval period from the Italian (riscio, “danger”) and the French (risqué). Its initial sphere was economic, used “as a description of uncertain commercial transactions” (Itzen and Muller 2016, 9). The new term was linked to new aversions: Niklas Luhmann suggests it was associated with apprehension, as older ideas of Fortune (allegorical and religious) gave way to a newly monetized idea of risk emphasizing human agency (Itzen and Muller 2016, 10). Whereas earlier ideas of danger had belonged to the realm of the divine, modern “risk” fell in the human domain. One aspect of this shift was the sense risk was something that could be hedged against or avoided. Maritime ventures changed both the vocabulary and the practice for assessing gains and losses, helping to create a new (and antithetical) social value of “prudence” (Itzen and Muller 2016, 9–10). Emphasis on being careful emerged as modern ideas of risk were taking shape. Both ideas eventually found themselves projected onto other fields, including medicine and, in the twentieth century, the emerging field of public health. Connections between risk and personal responsibility may pose challenges for health and health care, but they also offer...

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