Medieval England It is said that ‘An apple a day keeps the dentist away.’ This has become a common saying among Society today. We do not stop to think of how it reflects our outlook of Medicine in our lives. We have come to understand the value of simple practices in order to keep ourselves healthy. This is not, however, the case of Medieval England.
Most ‘medical practices’ of the time were based upon superstition, ancient texts, myth, or the direction of the church. Medical practices of Medieval England often based upon nothing more than superstition proved un beneficial if not harmful to the people of England. Part of the obvious problem was the fact that the common person had little care or sense for improving their own health. The life and livelihood of an average person was less than desirable even from the time of birth. In the villages chronic inbreeding must have produced many children who started life with a built in weakness, either mental or physical. Many would die in childhood, but others who grew into manhood, might drag out a, dependent on charity for their sustenance.
In general, infant mortality was extremely heavy… Once the child was free to crawl about among the unsanitary rushes, with a child’s natural instinct to put everything into its mouth, it is a wonder that any survived. From then on disease and accident would provide ample scope for a medical service, which was virtually non-existent. (Tokeieff 119).
"Medical Practices in the Early Middle Ages" The Article "Medical Practices in the Early Middle Ages" is placed in the chapter directly before the reading on health and medical practices in the Carolingian times. This is a good place because it expresses the high use of medicinal herbs. The article goes a step further then the chapter by giving examples of remedies from three different medical ...
Furthermore, the collective knowledge (what little there was) was held and practiced by Monks in Monasteries. In summary of medical practice to the end of 1400, it may be said medicine was practiced mostly by the clerics in monasteries and the laity whose locus of operation was the apothecary shop. The physician thought surgery was beneath his dignity (to have blood on his hands and clothes) and left this to uneducated ‘barbers’ The practitioner carried the title ‘Master,’ whereas teachers carried the title ‘Doctor’ The physician was little advanced over the knowledge of Galen’s time. They still believed in the Doctrine of four humours, making diagnoses by inspection of the blood and urine. Most of the therapeutic measures included blood letting, steam baths, amulets, spells, hexes, prayers, the king’s touch, and poly pharmacy known as.
The problem is furthered by the fact that these ‘practices’ proved of little benefit. Most of these had no scientific basis and were instead rooted in superstition and / or the church. ‘The concern of Christian theology, on the other hand, was to cure the soul rather than the body; disease usually was considered supernatural in origin and cured by religious means.
As a result, scientific investigation was inhibited during this time. Brothers of various monasteries copied and preserved those scientific manuscripts and documents which were thought to be consistent with prevailing religious thought… .’ Ency To sum it up, ‘For England, as far as the twelfth century was concerned, medicine was traditional, composed of a mixture of herbal lore and popular magic, while surgery was brutal-and must often have been fatal.’ (Tokeieff 120).
This now brings us to another point, the fact of the severe and unsophisticated nature of surgery.
‘Two twelfth-century manuscripts, one early, show medical treatment, and in both cauterizing looms large. The earlier one shows the physician cauterizing a shorn head, while an attendant in a room below is heating a relay of instruments in a furnace. The second manuscript shows cauterizing for trouble in the head and in the stomach-a painful remedy!’ (Tokeieff 120).
The medieval period is normally not associated with advances in technology, nor with contributions that benefit society. Yet, our medicine today owes much of its development to physicians of that time. Medicine of that era was strongly influenced by superstition and the doctrine of the Christian church, and did not have much foundation for practical application. The need for medicine in Middle ...
More is written of this, ‘Two of the manuscripts show the doctor in his drugstore, instructing his apprentice in the compounding of medicines. It was here that the medieval superstition reigned supreme. The ingredients heated in the furnace and pounded in the mortar could contain anything from crushed rocks to the entrails of animals and dead insects.
‘ (Tokeieff 122).
Lepers, cripples, and the blind were not uncommon in Medieval England.’ Cripples were everywhere. When the only known way to deal with a leg wound, or other leg ailment, was to amputate, it stands to reason that anyone strong enough to survive the primitive and un anaesthetised severance of the limb would be joining a numerous band.’ (Tokeieff 123).
Yet, they, along with other sick people had (often times) nowhere to turn.
Most could not afford medical attention, and Hospitals were nothing like that of now. ‘Provision for lepers, who were the outcasts of society, was the motive for the foundation of many of the earliest hospitals, which were intended not for the cure of the sick but as refuge for the incurable and the dying.’ (Tokeieff 122-123).
‘… In regard to the malign or beneficent influence…
one is driven to the conclusion that the surest way to survive was to keep away from the doctor.’ It should be clear that the health conditions for people in England of this time would be so unbearable that it would not be desirable by anybody. It is hard to imagine that anyone could see any benefit to the practices of the time. Yet thus is the case of any era: something commonly accepted of one age is looked down upon by the next. Perhaps a century or two down the historical road mankind will be simply disgusted by the way we live. Works CitedTomkeieff, O. G.
Life in Norman England. New York: Capricorn Books, 1967. Snyder, M. D. , Clifford C. ‘Summary of Medieval Medicine.’ web August 01, 1996’History of Medicine.’ Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia.
CD-ROM. IBM, 1995.