Medicine through time

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Medicine in Medieval and Early Modern Europe

Medicine during the Medieval period changed in a number of ways, often for the worse.

Medieval Europe was a place that placed less importance on the value of Public Health facilities. Through a lack of care, or a lack of ability to maintain the aqueducts et al built by the romans, medieval Europe became a place where medical practice was in places regressing rather than progressing.

It was over 400 years after the fall of the Roman Empire that Europe was again a place that was peaceful and relatively stable. Larger nations were beginning to emerge, such as Anglo-Saxon England, but Europe suffered from only being united by the Christian faith.

Little remained of the Roman era, only Latin, which was a universal language for the priesthood of the day. As a result there were a variety of different medical practices available to people in Medieval Times: they may have been treated by monks following the Hippocratic theory of the Four Humours, by apothecaries who specialised in herbal remedies or by doctors who made use of charms.

As the church taught that God sent illness, and that repenting would cure all evils, many people at the time believed that pilgrimage would cure them. Other theories were based upon astrology, the movement of the sun and stars.

Despite this disparate range of theories, there were many examples of good practice and advances were made. Most well trained doctors used Hippocrates teachings and diagnosis was developed, the use of Urine samples being a significant step forward. Even so, some ‘physical’ cures were administered for purely superstitious reasons: herbal remedies being prescribed as they would rid the body of evil spirits, for example.

Medicine in the Middle Ages - other pages in this section:

Unit home page - Medieval Surgery - Change in the Middle Ages - The role of Religion - The Black Death - Activities


Medicine in the Middle Ages

The third book in the History of Medicine series. This book explores a range of areas often forgotten by GCSE students. The book provides a clear narrative of the way in which the Black Death spread, and of the range of beliefs that influenced decisions about treatments. The book also provides an interesting insight into the role of monasteries, women and the development of surgical and medical practices at the time.

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