Ancient medical and healing systems are currently attracting considerable interest. This issue includes interdisciplinary studies which focus on new perceptions of some ancient and medieval medical systems, exploring how they related to each other, and assessing their contribution to modern society. It is shown that pre-Greek medicine included some rational elements, and that Egyptian and Babylonian medical systems contributed to a tradition which led from classical antiquity through the Middle Ages and beyond. The reliability of sources of evidence is considered, as well as the legacy of the ancient healing environments (temples and healing sanctuaries) and disease treatments (including surgical procedures and pharmaceutical preparations). Finally, where documentation survives, the legacy of social attitudes to health and disease is considered. Overarching principles directed policies of social medicine and healthcare in antiquity and the Middle Ages: for example, the causes and transmission routes of infectious diseases, as well as the basic principles of sterilization, were unknown, but nevertheless attempts were made to improve sanitation, provide clean water, and ensure access to trained physicians. In some cases, the need to limit the size of the population prompted the use of contraceptive measures, and surviving information also illuminates attitudes to deformity, disability and the treatment of the terminally ill.
Hybrid creatures emerging from the pages of Old English medical texts readily capture the modern imagination. A powerful medicinal root in an Old English herbal is rendered with distinctly human arms and legs; a swarm charm inscribed in the margins of Bede’s Old English history addresses bees as Valkyrie-like beings; an entry in the compilation known as the Lacnunga identifies a wayside plant as both herb and mother. Yet the most powerful forms of hybridity in the Old English healing tradition are more subtle and pervasive: linguistic hybrids of Latin and vernacular, cultural hybrids fusing Christian liturgy and Germanic lore, and generic hybrids drawing simultaneously from an ambient oral tradition and an increasingly ubiquitous culture of writing. Hybrid healing seeks to meet such textual hybridity with a methodological hybridity of its own. Drawing from a range of fields including historical linguistics, classical rhetoric, archaeology, plant biology, folkloristics, and disability studies, a series of close readings examines selected Old English medical texts through individually tailored combinations of approaches designed to illustrate how the healing power of these remedies ultimately derives from unique convergences of widely disparate traditions and influences. This case-study model positions readers to appreciate more fully the various forces at work in any given remedy, replacing reductive assumptions that have often led early medieval medicine to be dismissed as mere superstition. By inviting readers to approach each text with appropriately diverse critical frameworks, the book opens a space to engage the medieval healing tradition with empathy, understanding, and imagination.
Using an interdisciplinary approach, including historical semantics, medicine, natural philosophy and law, the book considers a neglected field of social and medical history and makes an original contribution to the problem of a shifting concept such as 'idiocy'. The book considers the semantics of intellectual disability (ID) by looking at the words and labels used across time and place for conditions that might be subsumed by the umbrella-term 'intellectual disability' in modern Western society. The book discusses concepts of ID in medieval natural science, that is, anatomical and medical texts, now termed as the neurological foundations. Turning from the material aspects of neurology to the immateriality of psychology, it treats mind and soul in relation to ID. Discussing the theme of childishness, the book considers the legal position of persons with ID. The question of whether a legal case related to mental illness or ID is analysed. Thinking about legal agency returns to the themes of idiocy and infancy. The book then looks at the socio-cultural implications of ID through the lens of court fools, pets and entertainers. An overview of the link between court fools, idiots and social theories of dominance leads on to classical antiquity and the origin of 'fools', with the fully fledged medieval court fools noticeable and remarkable for 'foolish' behaviour rather than medicalised traits.
–3. However, his method of treating the condition by cutting through the fistula tract is discussed in many treatises extending back to antiquity. Plinio Prioreschi claims that Arderne’s innovations were the invention of an eyed probe and peg to tighten the ligature used for cutting, as well as the use of mild agents for the patient’s aftercare. See Plinio Prioreschi, A History of Medicine: Medieval Medicine, Vol. V (Omaha: Horatius Press, 2003), pp. 509–12. 6 Henry’s forces successfully fought the Battle of Bergerac in 1345 and entered and looted Poitiers in 1346
’. 72 Thus, like sleep, swooning was a recognisable, readable result of strong emotion in medieval medicine. Malory’s capacious Morte Darthur offers a useful case study for analysing the distinctive ways in which swooning and sleep mark uncomfortable emotional states in Middle English literature. For instance, when Malory’s Guenevere reproaches Launcelot for sleeping with Elaine (a second time), the narrator reports that Launcelot toke suche an hartely sorow at her wordys that he felle downe
This book explores whether early modern people cared about their health, and what did it mean to lead a healthy life in Italy and England. According to the Galenic-Hippocratic tradition, 'preservative' medicine was one of the three central pillars of the physician's art. Through a range of textual evidence, images and material artefacts, the book documents the profound impact which ideas about healthy living had on daily practices as well as on intellectual life and the material world in Italy and England. Staying healthy and health conservation was understood as depending on the careful management of the six 'Non-Naturals': the air one breathed, food and drink, excretions, sleep, exercise and repose, and the 'passions of the soul'. The book provides fresh evidence about the centrality of the Non-Naturals in relation to groups whose health has not yet been investigated in works about prevention: babies, women and convalescents. Pregnancy constituted a frequent physical state for many women of the early modern European aristocracy. The emphasis on motion and rest, cleansing the body, and improving the mental and spiritual states made a difference for the aristocratic woman's success in the trade of frequent pregnancy and childbirth. Preventive advice was not undifferentiated, nor simply articulated by individual complexion. Examining the roles of the Non-Naturals, the book provides a more holistic view of convalescent care. It also deals with the paradoxical nature of perceptions about the Neapolitan environment and the way in which its airs were seen to affect human bodies and health.
attention, probably because the act of nursing is not featured in the Old English corpus. 14 Scholarship on early medieval medicine tends to focus on the medical texts rather than on the people engaged in medical practice, and the very little extant work discusses doctors (who diagnose illness and prescribe treatment) rather than nurses (who care for the sick more generally). 15 Such work of general caring tends to be invisible in the historical record; however, Montserrat
familiar to modern scholars of Old English, it is the most well-preserved version with the fewest lacunae and is thus more accessible to modern readers, and its beautiful illustrations go far in contextualizing the remedies for us even today. Not being practitioners of medieval medicine, modern readers need the clarity provided by what was likely a presentation copy, geared as it was even then toward non-specialists with an interest in healing practice. Rather, what I hope to accomplish here is to show what can be gained at the same
broadly. While scholarly ideas about leprosy and diet may not have directly influenced the regimen within leprosaria , we do know that by the end of the Middle Ages learned medicine reached increasingly broad audiences in the form of advice literature. 7 In ancient and medieval medicine, diet was one of the non-naturals: variable factors that were held to influence health in either beneficial or detrimental ways. It was understood that the regulation of the diet, by preserving or restoring the balance of the four bodily humours, would enable an individual to maintain
, 1574, first publ. Latin 1555), preface; Lemnius, The Secret Miracles, 245. 36 Exceptions include: M. van der Lugt, ‘Neither ill nor healthy: the intermediate state between health and disease in medieval medicine’, Quaderni Storici, 136:1 (2011), pp. 13–46; Joutsivuo, Scholastic Tradition. These scholars discuss the philosophical controversies surrounding the neutral body, particularly between Aristotle and Galen. 37 F. Glisson, G. Bate and A. Regemorter, A Treatise of the Rickets (London: Peter Cole, 1651), pp. 277–8. 38 J. Johnstonus, The Idea of Practical