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 unbeneficial 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 useless
existance, 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. Fromt then on disease and
accident would provide ample scope for a medical service, which was
virtually non-existent. (Tomkeieff 119).

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 polypharmacy known as theriaca. (Snyder 1).

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...."

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).

More is written of this, "Two of the manuscripts show the doctor in his drug
store, 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 unanaesthetised 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