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The Dying and the Doctors

The Dying and the Doctors: The Medical Revolution in Seventeenth-Century England

Ian Mortimer
Volume: 69
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 246
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  • Book Info
    The Dying and the Doctors
    Book Description:

    From the sixteenth century onwards, medical strategies adopted by the seriously ill and dying changed radically, decade by decade, from the Elizabethan age of astrological medicine to the emergence of the general practitioner in the early eighteenth centu

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-715-8
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. viii-viii)
  4. List of Tables
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xiii-xiii)
    Ian Mortimer
  6. Abbreviations
    (pp. xiv-xiv)
  7. Note on the text
    (pp. xiv-xiv)
  8. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    If social history were a series of landscapes, then the most dramatic terrain – the steepest mountains – would be found in the social history of medicine. The problems posed by severe illnesses, incapacity and death have led to the most profound social developments, affecting almost every aspect of human life. The sixteenth and seventeenth centuries are particularly important in this respect, and cannot be regarded as simply the low foothills before the steeper slopes of modern medical discoveries. Indeed, with regard to the acceptance of the need for a high-quality, regulated medical profession, the three centuries before the Apothecaries Act of...

  9. 1 The Medicalisation of East Kent
    (pp. 11-41)

    If a sample of all surviving probate accounts were to be taken it would be skewed towards East Kent. Erickson has estimated that roughly one-fifth of all deceased adult male residents of the diocese of Canterbury are represented for the later seventeenth century, and more for the decades prior to the Civil Wars.¹ No other geographical region is comparable. East Kent would also dominate any cross-regional sample because it covers a greater range of dates than any other collection. Even if 10 per cent of the East Kent accounts were to be selected for the years 1570–1719, to make...

  10. 2 The Medicalisation of Central Southern England
    (pp. 42-56)

    How relevant is the East Kent model to the rest of provincial southern England? This is a difficult question to answer. In theory it should be easy – a direct comparison between dioceses using the same methods – but in practice this is not possible. No other county has a collection of accounts which compares in size with that of Kent, and thus no other county can be examined in the same detail per decade as East Kent. Nor is any other collection of accounts as detailed in its medical references. Even a cursory glance at the index for other regions shows...

  11. 3 The Availability and Nature of Medical Assistance
    (pp. 57-90)

    If society was becoming medicalised, it follows that a group within it was acting – either consciously or unconsciously – as an agent for social change. It is reasonable to speculate that increases of several hundred per cent in medical services between the first and the third quarters of the seventeenth century led to a greater call on the time of practitioners, and so for a greater need for them. Was the ambition to be a medical practitioner partly behind the change? The supply-side factor is best measured by discovering whether there were more physicians, surgeons and apothecaries in 1690 than there...

  12. 4 Medical Practices
    (pp. 91-134)

    It is no easy task to treat practitioners systematically according to occupation. Not only did some cross between occupations, the historian has also to contend with the fundamental problem of whether to examine the practitioner in the context of the descriptors applied by his clientele, or the identity that he might have assigned to himself, perhaps as a result of a specific qualification. Neither perspective can be ignored. Moreover, the changes in nomenclature and the differences between practitioners’ own identities and those assigned to them accentuate the relevance of occupational descriptors. Thus it is worth examining practices according to the...

  13. 5 The Nature and Availability of Nursing Care
    (pp. 135-189)

    We have come a long way since the above lines were written. We no longer regard nurses as often drunk, nor do we regard their being middle-aged as ‘a bad thing’, and we do not presume that it was only because the ‘hired nurse’ was so feared that households armed themselves with recipes from medical do-it-yourself books. We accept the need for many of them to be paid. We understand the context of Cruikshank’s famous drawing of an ugly nurse, with her lantern and urine flask, much more in the humour in which it was drawn – as a parody of...

  14. 6 Plague and Smallpox
    (pp. 190-203)

    It is both a truism and a regrettable limitation that very few specific diseases are mentioned in these accounts, and so it remains inevitable that what is charted in this book is an increasingly medicalised response to illness in general, with no sensitivity to which specific diseases or ailments were perceived to be treatable, and thus to which medical and social issues were perhaps driving change. However, it is possible to distinguish certain types of medical condition. In particular, plague and smallpox are often specified as the cause of death, or the reason why extensive and expensive nursing care was...

  15. Conclusion
    (pp. 204-212)

    This study has sought to chart the changing relationships between the seriously ill and dying and their medical practitioners and nurses between 1570 and 1720. A summary of the major findings has to begin with the principal trend noted in the first two chapters: there was a dramatic and widespread increase in the proportion of dying people receiving medical help or purchasing physic in the last days and weeks of their lives in the seventeenth century. The increase in East Kent may be measured as varying from a minimum of +360 per cent for urban higher status groups (+550 per...

  16. APPENDIX: Medical Indices for East Kent, West Sussex, Berkshire and Wiltshire
    (pp. 213-214)
  17. Bibliography
    (pp. 215-222)
  18. Index
    (pp. 223-232)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 233-233)