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Medicine in the English Middle Ages

Medicine in the English Middle Ages

Faye Getz
Copyright Date: 1998
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    Medicine in the English Middle Ages
    Book Description:

    This book presents an engaging, detailed portrait of the people, ideas, and beliefs that made up the world of English medieval medicine between 750 and 1450, a time when medical practice extended far beyond modern definitions. The institutions of court, church, university, and hospital--which would eventually work to separate medical practice from other duties--had barely begun to exert an influence in medieval England, writes Faye Getz. Sufferers could seek healing from men and women of all social ranks, and the healing could encompass spiritual, legal, and philosophical as well as bodily concerns. Here the author presents an account of practitioners (English Christians, Jews, and foreigners), of medical works written by the English, of the emerging legal and institutional world of medicine, and of the medical ideals present among the educated and social elite.

    How medical learning gained for itself an audience is the central argument of this book, but the journey, as Getz shows, was an intricate one. Along the way, the reader encounters the magistrates of London, who confiscate a bag said by its owner to contain a human head capable of learning to speak, and learned clerical practitioners who advise people on how best to remain healthy or die a good death. Islamic medical ideas as well as the poetry of Chaucer come under scrutiny. Among the remnants of this far distant medical past, anyone may find something to amuse and something to admire.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2267-6
    Subjects: Health Sciences

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-2)
  5. CHAPTER I The Variety of Medical Practitioners in Medieval England
    (pp. 3-19)

    In the summer of 1205, Hubert Walter, archbishop of Canterbury, suddenly fell ill with a deadly fever and carbuncle (anthrax) while traveling to Boxley in Kent. So severe was his illness that he was forced to divert to a nearby manor of his, Teynham. The carbuncle erupted around his waist, at the third-from-last vertebra of his back, with the inflammation extending around so as to threaten his private parts.

    The archbishop, a remarkable lawyer who helped develop Henry II’s legal and financial system, had accompanied Henry’s son Richard the Lion- Hearted on a crusade to Palestine. In his illness, Hubert...

  6. CHAPTER II Medical Travelers to England and the English Medical Practitioner Abroad
    (pp. 20-34)

    In 1264 the streets of London were torn by murderous riots. Although these insurrections are usually characterized as anti-Semitic, they were also directed against the Italians and French, who fled with the Jews for refuge to the Tower of London.¹ More than a century and a half later, the London mob attacked Dutch breweries, enraged by the rumor that foreigners were selling poison beer.² The causes of such disturbances, then and now, are complex, but viewed from a historical distance, these riots point to the fact that some residents obviously were viewed as outsiders, even though, like the Jews, they...

  7. CHAPTER III The Medieval English Medical Text
    (pp. 35-64)

    Medical texts from the English Middle Ages survive in large numbers and are the most obvious source of knowledge about the medicine of the period. These documents come in many forms and languages, from the gigantic LatinCompendium medicine(Compendium of medicine) of Gilbert Eagle (Gilbertus Anglicus) to short recipes and charms written in vernacular languages like English or French. Long texts often stood alone, but the shorter ones could be bound together with other medical texts or with material that, from a modern perspective, had little, if anything, to do with healing.

    Medical texts in English, either in Old...

  8. CHAPTERI IV The Institutional and Legal Faces of English Medicine
    (pp. 65-84)

    The twelfth century in Europe saw probably the most important development ever to knowledge about healing—the medical university. Before that time learned medicine was taught, along with other forms of dignified learning, in cathedral schools, monasteries, and private establishments. England had two of the oldest universities in the medieval West—Oxford and Cambridge—whose secular and church patrons strove to establish havens of leisure and intellectual sophistication for men studying for the priesthood. These retreats from clerical duty ideally would allow students to be educated to meet increasing demand both for educated parish priests and for learned jurists required...

  9. CHAPTER V Well-Being without Doctors: Medicine, Faith, and Economy among the Rich and Poor
    (pp. 85-92)

    Today people in developed countries have high expectations from scientific medicine and from the professionals and institutions that deliver it. Advances in public health, medicine, surgery, and related fields give wealthier people at least the hope that medicine will restore good health and prolong life. And rightly so—the state of modern scientific medicine would have been almost unimaginable even fifty years ago. Also understandable is the way medical historians have looked to the university-educated physician as the ancestor of today’s scientific medical practitioner. This point of view is well justified in that mastery of a set body of texts,...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 93-140)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 141-160)
  12. Name Index
    (pp. 161-166)
  13. Subject Index
    (pp. 167-174)