My interest in medieval medicine started for two different reasons. I was doing research on head injuries in Arthurian literature and wanted to know how such injuries would have been realistically treated. I was also hoping to find some entertainingly ridiculous medical practices (on the latter, I was ultimately disappointed—medieval medicine was usually rational). In this search, I found Medicine in Medieval England by C. H. Talbot.
Medicine in Medieval England is intended for non-scientists, so it is quite an accessible book. It’s mostly about the development of medical texts and practices, so it contains far more history than remedies. Talbot starts with the Anglo-Saxons and Arab schools, then traces the influence of the latter on Europe and the independent development of new practices. The last few chapters give further examples in specific fields: doctors, hygiene, hospitals, etc. Though no chapter gives a detailed list of specific treatments for specific illnesses, Talbot gives numerous examples throughout the text where appropriate, particularly in the second half.
Overall, the reader can get an excellent picture of how medicine was practiced in medieval Europe. Since Talbot focuses on the transmission of knowledge, this book is a great resource for compiling a list of primary sources for further research. At the end, Talbot gives a list of a few modern editions for such texts.
I purchased my copy of Medicine in Medieval England at a store for rare and antique scholarly books. This one isn’t so valuable that I’d recommend snatching it up when you find it, but it’s worth getting from a library.
Table of Contents
- Anglo-Saxon Medicine
- Arab Medicine
- Medical Education
- Gilbertus Anglicus and Others
- John Gaddesden
- The Orders of Medieval Practitioners
- Medical Ethics and Etiquette
- Vernacular Texts
- The Final Phase