History and Philosophy Of Science | Sickness & Health: The History of Medieval & Renaissance Medicine
X123 | 11526 | Joel Klein


Sickness & Health: The History of Medieval & Renaissance Medicine


You’re a Londoner in 1603 and you happen to be one of approximately
38,000 individuals to contract the Black Death, also known as the
plague. Your glands and lymph nodes begin to swell and form buboes,
covering much of your miserable, feverish body, while fluid fills
your lungs and you begin to bleed internally. The doctors have fled
the city, but of course they were powerless to help you even if they
had stayed; several members of your family are dead or dying from
the same disease, and you are confronted with the prospect of an
immediate and horrifying death.

In an age of penicillin, CAT scans, hand sanitizer, stem cells, and
other medical godsends, it is difficult for us to empathize with and
understand those who have lived before us. In this course, it is our
aim to gain a historically sensitive understanding of medicine in
Medieval and Renaissance Europe from both the perspective of the
physician and the patient – to appreciate medicine at both the
theoretical and social level. To achieve this understanding we will
use methods from intellectual, social, and cultural history as we
progress from Arabic medicine of the12th century to what may be
argued is the cusp of modern medicine in the 17th century. Along the
way we will focus on the development of anatomical and medical
procedures within new medical institutions such as hospitals, how
the history of medicine is related to the history of science and
developments in “natural philosophy”, how disease was thought of in
relation to both culture and society, and how changing views on the
body and gender are related to medicine.

We will be reading and discussing both primary and secondary
sources, but one need not have any prior knowledge of the history of
Medieval or Renaissance Western Europe, thus the course is
appropriate for individuals interested in medicine in general and as
a career.