+ Real Crusades History +

+ Real Crusades History +

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Two Reviews: "Medicine in the Crusades" and "Medieval Medicine"

At the start of each month + Real Crusades History + brings you a review of a book relevant to the crusades or the crusader states. Today Scott Amis provides a comparative review of two books that look at medical practice in the era of the crusades.
+ Real Crusades History + will be following up with a couple of articles later this year from a guest expert.

Of the numerous myths and misconceptions about the Middle Ages in the popular history and folklore of present times, those concerning disease, medical practice, and the treatment of common injuries and battlefield wounds are among the most widespread, fanciful, and incorrect.

Fortunately, this subject has attracted recent intellectual attention, which has produced works of conspicuous value: notably, Medicine in the Crusades, authored by paleopathological researcher Piers D. Mitchell, and Medieval Medicine, by historian and author Toni Mount.

As implied in the title, Medicine in the Crusades specifically addresses medical practice during the period of the Holy Land Crusades and in the Crusader States, established in the Near East during and in the aftermath of the First Crusade. This volume, though initially off-putting in its college textbook format, is yet readily accessible for both beginning and advanced students of medieval and Crusades history.

Medicine in the Crusades owes its exceptional readability to the author's straightforward presentation. Though produced to highest scholarly standards, with extensive references to primary and secondary sources and the author's own comments, the conveniently separated text and supplementary materials allow the engagingly written and always fascinating text to be easily read 'standalone'.   

Topics included, but not limited to, are medieval medical education, legal aspects of medical practice in the Crusader States, the distinctions among the many types of practitioners and their specialties, methods of treatment for disease, battle wounds, and victims of torture, and exchange of medical knowledge among the Frankish, Islamic, and Byzantine worlds.

Although Medieval Medicine takes a broader, more popular approach in presentation and content, author Toni Mount's capabilities as an academic specialist with an expert novelist's touch are apparent throughout, merging scholarly excellence with witty, page-turning readability.

Medieval Medicine shares much of the same ground with Medicine in the Crusades, but also ventures into areas beyond the scope of the latter volume, particularly in a chapter devoted to medical problems specific to women and women as both doctors and patients, another which examines unbelievably bizarre yet historically factual treatments and the contemporary sensible, effective alternatives, and in a timeline extending beyond the Holy Land Crusader period, well into the post-medieval English Tudor.   

Perhaps most importantly, Medicine in the Crusades and Medieval Medicine serve, with scalpel-keen precision, to put old and prevalent myths of Islamic superiority and European 'backwardness' in medical knowledge and practice to demonstrated, conclusive rest.

In the opinion of the editorial staff at Real Crusades History, both volumes, fortunately available online at very reasonable prices, are eminently suitable to place on our reading list, among those essential to a foundational understanding of medieval history.

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