Maladies and Medicine: Exploring Health & Healing, 1540-1740

Maladies and Medicine: Exploring Health & Healing, 1540-1740

by Sara Read, Jennifer Evans


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Maladies and Medicine offers a lively exploration of health and medical cures in early modern England. The introduction sets out the background in which the body was understood, covering the theory of the four humors and the ways that male and female bodies were conceptualized. It also explains the hierarchy of healers from university trained physicians, to the itinerant women healers who traveled the country offering cures based on inherited knowledge of homemade remedies. It covers the print explosion of medical health guides, which began to appear in the sixteenth century from more academic medical text books to cheap almanacs.

The book has twenty chapters covering attitudes towards, and explanations of some of, the most common diseases and medical conditions in the period and the ways people understood them, along with the steps people took to get better. It explores the body from head to toe, from migraines to gout. It was an era when tooth cavities were thought to be caused by tiny worms and smallpox by an inflammation of the blood, and cures ranged from herbal potions, cooling cordials, blistering the skin, and of course letting blood.

Case studies and personal anecdotes taken from doctors notes, personal journals, diaries, letters and even court records show the reactions of individuals to their illnesses and treatments, bringing the reader into close proximity with people who lived around 400 years ago. This fascinating and richly illustrated study will appeal to anyone curious about the history of the body and the way our ancestors lived.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781473875715
Publisher: Pen and Sword
Publication date: 09/11/2017
Sales rank: 1,217,127
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Dr Sara Read is a lecturer in English at Loughborough University. She holds a PhD in early modern literature. Her particular interest is in representations of the female body in literature and she has published widely in this field. Her first book Menstruation and the Female Body in Early Modern England was published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2013, and she has co-edited a collection of early modern women’s writings on the topic of health and spirituality called Flesh and Spirit: An Anthology of Seventeenth-century Women’s Writing for Manchester University Press, 2014. In addition, Dr Read has published a number of social history articles for Discover Your Ancestors magazine.

Jennifer Evans is a senior lecturer in History at the University of Hertfordshire. Her academic research is focused on the body, medicine and gender and covers the period 1550-1750. To date her research has examined the understanding of infertility and its treatments in early modern England.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements vii

Introduction viii

Part 1 Head Complaints 1

Chapter 1 Migraine and Headache: A Laborious and Dull Sense 2

Chapter 2 Epilepsy: The Sacred Disease 10

Chapter 3 Palsy: Paralysis or Shaking 17

Chapter 4 Eye Complaints: Light without Heat 23

Chapter 5 Toothache: Rotten Worms 30

Part 2 Abdominal Maladies 37

Chapter 6 Disorderly Bowels: Griping Guts 38

Chapter 7 Jaundice: Shedding Choler 43

Chapter 8 Kidney and Bladder Stones: Easing the Passage 50

Part 3 Whole Body Ailments 59

Chapter 9 Agues: Frequent Fits of Fever 60

Chapter 10 Cancer: In the Crab's Claws 67

Chapter 11 Diabetes: The Pissing Evil 73

Chapter 12 Dropsy: Drowning in Water 79

Chapter 13 Gout: A Painful Guest 84

Chapter 14 Irritating Infestations: Rubbing and Scratching 91

Chapter 15 Pestilential Plague: A Divine Affliction 98

Chapter 16 Scrofula: The King's Evil 107

Chapter 17 Scurvy: Scabs, Spots, and Stinking Breath 113

Chapter 18 Smallpox: Red Pustules and Scarlet Cloth 119

Part 4 Reproductive Maladies 127

Chapter 19 Greensickness: The Virgin's Disease 128

Chapter 20 The Whites: A Most Troublesome Disease 133

Chapter 21 Infertility: A Defect in the Seed 138

Chapter 22 False Conceptions and Miscarriages: Breeding Moles 143

Chapter 23 Venereal Disease: The French Pox, a New Disease 152

Afterword 161

List of Illustrations 162

Bibliography 166

Index 179

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Maladies and Medicine: Exploring Health & Healing, 1540-1740 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
IrregularReader More than 1 year ago
Europe in the 1600s was a strange place to be. Science and empirical data were beginning to subsume old superstition. The invention of the microscope opened up a whole new world to human sight. Discoveries in physics, medicine, and other fields slowly brought Europe into the modern age. But for a time, superstition and science existed as awkward bedfellows. Doctors tried to balance the ancient medical theories of Galen and Hippocrates with new, scientifically gathered data. It is this awkward stage that is front and center in Maladies and Medicine. This is a straight-up history book. While the authors certainly inject frivolity and humor into the book, this is meant more for the dedicated history buff, and not for the casual reader. Evans and Reed, while admitting to the books limitations in scope (it’s a big topic), include a vast amount of information, conveniently divvied up by disease. The authors also delve into the differences between medical doctors, surgeons, midwives and other practicing women, and the unofficial medical practitioners. Each has their own origin and medical views, and it is curious to see when they agree, disagree, and borrow from one another. History buffs will find a lot of great information (and a lot of cringe-worthy knowledge) in this book. If you’re interested in medieval history or medical history, this book is a great addition to your TBR. However, if you’re looking for a similar book for a more casual reader, you should check out Quackery by Lydia Kang. An advance copy of this book was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
MorrisMorgan More than 1 year ago
I wanted to enjoy “Maladies and Medicine,” but it was a struggle to maintain focus and keep my mind from drifting. It’s way more technical than I was expecting and seemed aimed more at professionals than the average lay person. There were some interesting facts in the book, but I can’t recommend it. This unbiased review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher.