Cover image for Medicine in the English Middle Ages
Medicine in the English Middle Ages
Getz, Faye Marie, 1952-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Princeton, NJ : Princeton University Press, 1998.
Physical Description:
xiv, 174 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Reading Level:
1780 Lexile.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
R487 .G47 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



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.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Getz focuses on the motley group of health care providers in the complex and changing world of medieval England. In a well-thought-out and sensible analysis, she reconstructs the slow transformation of the medical enterprise from part-time by a diverse group of individuals of varying background in the eighth century, to full-time by an increasing number of practitioners educated in the newly established universities that were gradually assuming an increased role in the teaching of medicine in the 15th century. In a way, this is the story of changes in the learning and practice of medical care that formed the beginnings of the professionalization of medicine in the waning years of the Middle Ages. Based on extensive research into extant church, court, and institutional records, this is an informative account of the individuals, texts, sources, and regulations that shaped medicine in the context of the larger scale of fundamental changes transforming the whole culture of the Middle Ages. Together with extensive annotations and a list of primary and secondary sources, this is a valuable contribution that should be of considerable interest and a useful a useful resource to medical historians and sociologists alike. General readers; undergraduates through professionals. G. Eknoyan; Baylor College of Medicine