Cover Image: Medicine in the Middle Ages

Medicine in the Middle Ages

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Member Reviews

A BIG thank you to Pen & Sword for granting my "wish" and allowing me to read this book on NetGalley!

I have always been a huge fan of history, with medical history being one of my favorite sub-genre's to read about. The moment I saw this book I knew I had to read it. It just FELT like it would have the answers to some questions I've always wondered about concerning medical/health problems of the past. And boy did it !!

I'm sure somebody out there could write a very longgggggg, dry, technical manual to Medieval medical history and I'm sure it would be very helpful! But unless you're a college student, professor, or someone in the field, I don't see that book being very enjoyable. THIS book is enjoyable! Juliana Cummings does a wonderful job of keeping facts moving within the text while not boring the reader with every finite detail of the medical history of Medieval Times. Each chapter covers a different "piece" of the Medieval medical pie (if you will) but flow wonderfully together as a whole text. 

Juliana Cummings has definitely done her research and she has made a lovely book that brings the facts and history to life for anyone who has ever wondered about the past. Although the Medieval period can be seen today as dark, unsanitary, and almost inhumane, Juliana Cummings takes the good and the bad and shows that at the end of the day people are people. 

A great read for anyone who loves history, medicine, or just something full of very interesting facts. This book will definitely win you "cool points" when you start mentioning facts at a Holiday Party! 10/10 !
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A good overview of the history of medieval medicine, its origins, and development through the period in question.
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I have to start by saying that I did enjoy some parts of the book but in general I found it too confusing. I appreciated that it was written for each chapter covering one topic but I personally would have preferred a sequential date order to show how the changes occurred. The consequence of doing a topic related chapter was that there was no flow through the Middle Ages of the medical situations as dates were continually going forwards and then back again which muddied the waters for the reader. Not following events in date order meant that there was far too many duplication of dates this way.
I did not like the constant references and writings from historical figures as personally this added little to the topic.
As I read through I felt that I was reading a university dissertation rather than a book for general readers and I strongly believe that this failed to reach the book description.
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I don’t know a whole lot about medicine in the Middle Ages. I’ve read a lot of nonfiction books about various plagues that swept through numerous regions during the time period we would define as “Middle Ages” but aside from that, and information gleaned in those books, I don’t know much. However, I want to know more. I find myself, when I read books set in this time period, often wondering how exactly people survived. When I saw Medicine in the Middle Ages, I knew it was a book I had to read, and so I jumped on it. 
 
The first thing I was concerned about is accessibility. Anyone who reads a good amount of nonfiction knows that sometimes authors probably think they are being accessible to the every reader, but in the end they are anything but. I didn’t want a book that read like a textbook, and I knew with my limited medical background, I’d need something I could easily sink into and understand, and I will say I found all of that here. Medicine in the Middle Ages might have a somewhat dry title, but the text inside the book is anything but. Cummings does a fantastic job weaving together history and scientific understanding to give readers a well-rounded overview of the topic, of the beliefs in that day and age, where they came from, and how they influenced medical understanding. 
 
Cummings spends the first part of the book talking more about how life was lived in the Middle Ages, rather than discussing medicine itself. This part of the book fascinated me, and I discovered pretty early on that it was essential to start the book out this way. You have to understand how people lived to be able to fully appreciate how they interacted with the world when something like a plague swept through. Once this foundation is laid, however, the author immerses herself in her subject matter. Due to the fact that we have some firm foundation upon which to explore this topic, thanks to the first chunk of the book, the information about medicine meant more to me, because I had context with which to address it. 
 
The Middle Ages itself is a period of time spanning about 1,000 years, and things change in that amount of time. Cummings spans the era, touching on important moments and historical events, giving some of them an intimate study while glossing over ones that might not be, perhaps, as important to the reader’s general understanding. The Black Death, an infamous plague that wiped out a good chunk of Europe’s population, is covered in detail, and though I have read numerous books on the subject already, I did learn some new things here. She also does not shy away from matters like childbirth, hospitals, and insane asylums, which were things I was really hoping to find in this book, and aren’t very often covered in other books detailing matters in this time period. 
 
Context was something I appreciated throughout. Cummings doesn’t just throw readers into the mire, she leads them through. We read about these events from a 21st century standpoint, which is often why I think, “How on earth did anyone survive back then?” We don’t often read about these things from the standpoint of someone living there, at that time. Cummings has a way of peeling back the layers between us and them, and showing readers not just what people practiced in the way of medicine, but why they did it, and their current understanding of what they were doing and why. This allows readers to better grasp what they got right, and what they got wrong, and how well (or poorly) they were doing based on the information they had at the time. From women’s healthcare to war wounds to plagues, each aspect is covered compassionately, and with an obvious understanding for not just why people did what they did, but their understanding of what they were doing as well. 
 
Ultimately, I learned a lot more from this book than I expected, and not all of it was about medicine. Due to Cumming’s knack for weaving history and science together into such a smooth narrative, I learned a lot of things about history that I didn’t know already as well. In fact, I went into this book with a general sense of curiosity, and left it with a list as long as my arm of things to google and learn more about. That’s always the sign of a good nonfiction book, in my estimation. They don’t just inform the reader, but they make the reader want to know more, and that’s what this did. Perhaps if I did have one drawback, it’s that this book isn’t terribly long. Clocking in at just under 200 pages, there isn’t a lot of room here for the author to cover topics in extensive detail, and so you might just want to make a list of things to further research, as some of the topics covered felt more like vignettes. 
 
Accessibly written with a knack for context and an ability to present complex topics in easily digestible bites, Medicine in the Middle Ages was a fascinating read. I highly recommend it to any nonfiction reader who enjoys books that seamlessly blend science and history.
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I enjoyed a lot about this book and other aspects I enjoyed a lot less. Whilst the focus on famous people at times was understandable, it did drag me away from the main reason I picked up this book. I could also have done without torture, but I guess in a way it makes sense the author included it. We always forget how long that time period was and so it was interesting to read about the changes in that period as well.
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I found it interesting and informative. There's plenty of information (too much at times) but I learned something new.
Recommended.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine
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A great insightful book on a topic that needs to be discussed and researched more. I find the way medicine has evolved fascinating and it was great to hear about the meaning behind procedures we hear about a lot but don't understand. Parts of this book were a bit too textbooky for me and I was expecting something a bit more fun but as a whole I would recommend it to people interested in medicine or history.
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This book was well written, informative and comprehensive. 

For anyone interested in history, I would recommend reading this.

Many thanks to the author, publisher and NetGalley for gifting me this arc in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.
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I just couldn’t get into this book. The first part was mainly about religion and I get that they are interrelated, but too much!
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The period of human history that we know today as the Middle Ages spanned over a thousand years, and within that time, significant progress was made into understanding our world. Inventions and discoveries were made not just in Europe but throughout the known world during this time. One area of study that saw a lot of change was medical studies and understanding the human body. How did physicians heal the sick during the Middle Ages, and how did their experiences change their field of study? These questions and more are all explored in Juliana Cummings’ latest book, “Medicine in the Middle Ages: Surviving the Times.”

I want to thank Pen and Sword Books and Net Galley for sending me a copy of this book. I like learning about aspects from the past, so when I saw this title, I was interested in reading it.  I am not usually curious about medical information, but medieval medical history draws me in, so I hope to learn more. 

To understand many of the theories of medieval medicine and their origins, we have to go back to the Greeks, primarily Galen and Hippocrates. Many people would be familiar with the works of Hippocrates. Still, they might not be familiar with Galen even if they know his Four Humours Theory, which was pivotal in understanding the human body. Cummings also includes the works of Arab scholars, European scholars, and physicians to help the audience understand how vast the world of medical history was during the Middle Ages. 

Cummings does not stick with one medical treatment or disease during this time, and she covers everything from the Black Death, syphilis, and leprosy to pregnancy and injuries during battle. Reading about the theories and cures that physicians, apothecaries, and barber surgeons applied to heal the sick and dying was quite fascinating. Even though I did take a copious amount of notes while reading this book, I did feel like other books on this subject did a better job of focusing on the medicine part. This book introduces many theories and physicians to those unfamiliar with medical history, but it falls a bit flat with actual cures that they would have used. The ending of this book also needed a bit of work since it just ended abruptly. I think it would have been appropriate for Cummings to explain why the history of medieval medicine is important for readers to understand in the 21st century and beyond.

Overall, I think this was a decent introductory book into the vast world of medieval medical history. Cummings’s writing style is easy to follow, and she has done her research about this subject. If you want a solid introductory book into the world of medieval medical history, you should check out “Medicine in the Middle Ages: Surviving the Times” by Juliana Cummings.
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I was fascinated by the title and summary of this book, and was eager to learn more about how medicine was practiced during the Middle Ages. However, there were definitely positives and negatives about this book.

The chapters on how the actual major illnesses of the times, such as the Black Plague, syphilis, and sweating sickness were treated were incredibly interesting, while at the same time horrifying to visualize people willingly undergo these treatments. It's easy to remain horrified with our grasp of germ theory and present-day understanding of illness and medical care. Also interesting was the information about childbirth, mental illness, leprosy, and dental care. It was especially refreshing to see a book talking about the Middle Ages that also included Jewish and Muslim medical practices, since the Catholic Church dominated so much of society at those times, but there were still minority groups who had their own practices.

However, there was an inordinate amount of focus spent on history and famous figures in history rather than medicine. The last chapter was solely devoted to torture, which wasn't really related to the medical aspect of the book, and some of it didn't even take place during the Middle Ages, as admitted by the author. I found it a bit confusing when the author would discuss events taking place sequentially and then backtrack from the 16th century to the 1350s, even though that time period had been covered just pages before. Additionally, the entire book needed some serious editing. There were sentence fragments and so. many. misspellings.

Overall, this was an interesting read, but it wasn't exactly what I was expecting. I would have liked a bit more of a focus on the medicine and less on the historical battles and royal families (unless it was about the medical aspects and not the politics).
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*A big thank you to Juliana Cummings, Pen&Sword, and NetGalley for arc in exchange for my honest review.*
A definite and insightful offering into the way medicine was taught and practised for over one thousand years. Ms Cummings begins with the basic information on the medical science during the ancient times, with emphasis on the role of the Arab world, which is helpful while following the progress of medicine during the later centuries. A panorama of places and practitioners of all kinds and diseases that prevailed till the beginning of Rennaisance is well-presented and easy to follow for a reader interested in the period. Personally, I found the chapters on mental disorders and the evolution of a surgeon most interesting.
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This was a good book! It offered a slice of history in a interesting and engaging way. I feel like I learnt a lot of history from reading it and it didn’t even feel like hard work - it was enjoyable!
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The author has produced a brilliant work on medical history and her extensive research and thorough understanding of it comes out through each lines of the book. The language is very easy to understand and the facts has been presented in a very interesting way. Being from medical background myself, I thoroughly enjoyed this book.
Thank you Netgalley and the publishing house for granting my wish to read it, it is much appreciated.
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Excellent, a thoroughly detailed and comprehensive examination of medicine of the time accompanied with background to the history and historical events. I found this book very informative and accessible and I learned a great deal even though I have read quite extensively about the era and medicine through time.
The level of detail was good and I found it sensitively written rather than gratuitously gory (although I did find the descriptions of the yuckier parts fascinating). There was minor repetition in parts but it did not detract from the overall narrative. Absolutely recommend this book.
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A very interesting book on medicine in the middle ages and the role religion played on it, and its development. Truly showing that medicine today is vastly different,. Well researched
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As a healthcare professional who is drawn to science and history, I was intrigued by the title and curious to get my hands on a copy of Medicine in the Middle Ages. Give yourself some time to relish in all the historical details provided. This treasure reads a lot like a textbook, but without the dryness. I would have enjoyed some graphics interspersed through the pages, but my mind’s eye conjured up some good images based on the details provided. I love seeing the progression of medicine and the thought processes and rationales for why things were done the way they were done. Cummings does justice to the Middle Ages of Medicine.
I received a complimentary copy from the publisher via NetGalley and all opinions expressed are my own, freely given.
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Medicine in the Middle Ages: Surviving the Times by Juliana Cummings is a very readable and informative account of both life and medicine during that period. 

I know that some readers want an uncontextualized account of what medicine was like during the time, but without some foundation, without understanding how the people thought about life, on Earth and in the hereafter, it is hard to fully grasp some of the, to us, crazy things that passed for medical procedures. So while the first part of the book is less about medicine and more about how and why life was the way it was, it is essential for those who want more than just a curiosity book about peculiar medieval medicine. This is a history book, not a curiosity book.

That said, once that foundation has been laid is when the real interesting part of the book begins. From war wounds to women's health we are taken through what was done, why, and how effective it was, or wasn't. This is fascinating even if you have some previous knowledge. 

The writing is good and Cummings makes each point clearly and ties it into the society within which it existed. In other words, while we still are reading this with our 21st century knowledge of medicine and science, we are also reminded that these practitioners lived in very different times with very different ways of accounting for illnesses and injuries. Keeping that in mind helps us to appreciate what they did manage to get right.

I would recommend this to readers who like to read about specific aspects of life in the middle ages but with some contextualization. As long as you like history with your science you will be pleased. If you just want stories about medical beliefs and procedures without the history around them, the very first part of the book, the history part, may not be as interesting to you, but read it anyway, it will enrich your reading of the rest of the book.

Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via NetGalley.
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I have always been interested by history yes even getting a grade A in O level, considering my English was only C and looked forward to a book on Medicine in the Middle Ages (5thc - 15c) , considering this period of history was also part of the dark ages which we now know was not in any way 'dark' much development in Medicine occurred within this period for example the use of honey to treat wound healing which is a recognised therapy today. Now on to the review, I read around the first 30% and felt the ground work of the book was disjointed and poorly structured with to many side distraction that did not reflect the title dare I say better editing and organising needed), in particular the definition of 'Medicine' is the science or practice of the diagnosis, treatment & prevalence of disease. the first part talked about individuals, their history, with little about Medicine. The first part I would give it a 2/5 but I am glad I carried one as I enjoyed the latter part of the book as we got to the nitty gritty of Medicine and the development of techniques, some very barbaric, to treatment specific illness (black plague, toothache) or effects of specific challenges for the time such as war (sword injuries, torture). I did wonder where some of the authors information came from, was it factual? but no need to work as an extensive bibliography and note section at the end has more than enough research and reading material to keep any historian happy for years. Not quite an academics book but one that the interested historian or lay person would enjoy reading and piquing ones interest. The latter half redeemed itself so an overall 3/5.
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I found this to be a really enjoyable read, written in such a conversational manner that it was very easy reading. I was expecting it to just be facts about the medical procedures of the time, but it was more about general life in the medieval times and how it affected their health, and then what they did to try and combat those things. It's a great read if you have teens studying this era in history as it's interesting yet honest, or for adults who want to develop an interest in history
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