Medieval Medicine
The Art of Healing, from Head to Toe
by Luke Demaitre
April 2013, 350pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-0-275-98485-4
$75, £58, 66€, A103
eBook Available: 978-0-313-03842-6
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.
This unique examination of medieval medicine as detailed in physician's manuals of the period reveals a more sophisticated approach to the medical arts than expected for the time.

Far from the primitive and barbaric practices the Middle Ages may conjure up in our minds, doctors during that time combined knowledge, tradition, innovation, and intuition to create a humane, holistic approach to understanding and treating every known disease. In fact, a singularly authoritative medical source of the period, Lily of Medicine, continued to provide crucial study for students and practitioners of medicine almost four centuries after its completion in 1305. This unprecedented book investigates the extensive capabilities of physicians who relied on practice, observation, and imagination before the supremacy of mechanistic views and technological aids.

Medieval Medicine: The Art of Healing, from Head to Toe is a comprehensive look at diseases as they were described, classified, explained, assessed, and treated by doctors of the age. The author methodically compares a dozen encyclopedic manuals in which both the fundamental understanding of healthy functions and the specific response to diseases were summarized, viewing the information through a medieval perspective rather than based upon modern criteria.


  • Includes translations, available for the first time in English, of original comments and illustrations by physicians of the day
  • Contains a plethora of additional resources for learning, including 20 black-and-white plates with full references, 5 tables, a glossary of unusual words, a chronology and list of the consulted sources, and an extensive bibliography
  • Reveals how medieval medical manuals influenced literary, historical, and medical study
Luke Demaitre, PhD, is visiting professor of history in the Center for Biomedical Ethics and Humanities, University of Virginia, Charlottesville. His published works include Doctor Bernard de Gordon: Professor and Practitioner and Leprosy in Premodern Medicine, A Malady of the Whole Body.


"This extraordinary book will remind readers of the importance of knowledge gained many centuries ago. . . . This exhaustively researched book, written in elegant prose and express vocabulary, will capture and then hold one's attention. Valuable to historians, biologists, physicians, and historically oriented scientists. Summing Up: Highly recommended."—Choice, September 1, 2013

"Medieval Medicine is essential reading for anyone looking for a synthetic overview of academic medicine in the later medieval period. . . . Anyone wishing to understand later medieval medicine simply must consult Demaitre’s indispensable overview."—Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, June 2, 2015

"No source brings us closer to what the medieval physician needed to know than the manuals known as Practica. They bridge the gap between the classroom and the bedside, but never before have they been compared and collated in the way this book does. That alone would be cause for celebration; that the collation is in the hands of Luke Demaitre means that we are treated to a masterly survey going from fevers, pestilence and poison to the diseases affecting different parts of the body from head to heel. Demaitre brilliantly shows how much we can learn from teasing out what exactly the physician was looking for when he encountered the patient, how he foresaw the development of an illness over time, and the extraordinary variety of means he employed to treat it." —Peter Murray Jones, Fellow and Librarian, King’s College, Cambridge

"A wonderful and totally original exploration of the entire world of medieval diseases, organized through the medieval physician’s own eyes and often expressed in his own words: the symptoms he observed in his patients, the underlying causes he recognized, and the treatments he offered for each one, all set out by Demaitre with intelligence, clarity, humor, historical sensitivity, and no condescension towards the past whatsoever. There has never been a book like it before."—Michael McVaugh, William Smith Wells Professor of History (Emeritus), University of North Carolina

"This book will be of great value to anyone seeking to understand academic medicine of the high and late Middle Ages."—Linda Ehrsam Voigts, Curators' Professor of English Emerita, University of Missouri-Kansas City

“Luke Demaitre is a ‘maitre’ of the field. Gracefully written, insightfully synthesized, and provocatively imagined, this volume is a must-read for anyone interested in the history of medicine, whether modern or medieval. As both a practicing physician and a teaching historian, I will turn to Medieval Medicine as a source of inspiration, caution and authoritative information on a regular basis. You should too.”—Walton O. Schalick, III, MD, PhD, Department of Orthopedics and Rehabilitation, University of Wisconsin
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