Making the Medieval Relevant: Crossing Boundaries: Interdisciplinary Studies on Disease and Disability

Dr. Christina Lee - Crossing Boundaries: Interdisciplinary Studies on Disease and Disability

A summary of a paper given by Professor Christina Lee at the University of Nottingham’s “Making the Medieval Relevant” Conference.

Dyes, Diets and Deodorants: Venetian Beauty Secrets Revealed

Paris Bordon, Venetian Women at their Toilet, about 1545. These 2 women fit the blonde, pale, dedicated featured and small chested look prized by Venetians at the end of the Middle Ages and early Renaissance.

If you think it’s hard to keep up a beauty regime now, wait until you see what lengths the Venetians went to in order to be beautiful!

Make-Up and Medicine in the Middle Ages

Medieval woman combing her hair

A look at cosmetics and make-up in the Middle Ages.

Living cheek by jowl: the pathoecology of medieval York

A panoramic view of York in the 15th century. A watercolour by E. Ridsdale Tate produced in 1914,

This paper aims to present the environmental context for disease combined with the human osteological record to reconstruct the pathoecology of medieval York.

The Cyrurgia of Albucasis and other works, 1500

13th_century_anatomical - medicine

Four surgical treatises, printed in the last year of the fifteenth century, make up the oldest illustrated printed book in the Sibbald Library. The second one, the Cyrurgia of Albucasis, is the most interesting and I shall deal only briefly with the others.

The Stench of Disease: Public Health and the Environment in Late-Medieval English towns and cities

Petergate, York. By C.Monkhouse - 19th century

This article explores the urban environmental concerns of late-medieval English towns and cities and argues that these urban areas had a form of public health.

Limitations imposed by wearing armour on Medieval soldiers’ locomotor performance

Late Medieval Armour

Our findings can predict age-associated decline in Medieval soldiers’ physical performance, and have potential implications in understanding the outcomes of past European military battles.

‘Royal’ pediculosis in Renaissance Italy: lice in the mummy of the King of Naples Ferdinand II of Aragon (1467-1496)

Ferdinand II of Aragon

Pediculosis seems to have afflicted humans since the most ancient times and lice have been found in several ancient human remains. Examination of the head hair and pubic hair of the artificial mummy of Ferdinand II of Aragon (1467-1496), King of Naples, revealed a double infestation with two different species of lice…

Plague and Persecution: The Black Death and Early Modern Witch Hunts

witch burning

The century or so from approximately 1550 to 1650 is a period during which witch-hunts reached unprecedented frequency and intensity. The circumstances that fomented the witch- hunts—persistent warfare, religious conflict, and harvest failures—had occurred before, but witch-hunts had never been so ubiquitous or severe.

Women Healers and the Medical Marketplace of 16th-Century Lyon

women and children

Women Healers and the Medical Marketplace of 16th-Century Lyon Alison Klairmont-Lingo Dynamis: Vol.19 (1999) Abstract Although women’s legal and marital status make them almost invisible in archival documents, what traces remain suggest that women participated in Lyon’s medical marketplace in various ways and under various guises. At Lyon’s municipally-funded poor hospital, the Hotel-Dieu, widows and […]

Sex and obscenity in medieval art

Sex 2

When researching early or ‘forbidden’ historical subjects it can be a considerable challenge finding primary sources that give a first-hand experience of contemporary events.

Phthiriasis: the riddle of the lousy disease

Medieval Lice

Of all the legendary and fantastic diseases of ancient times, phthiriasis, or the lousy (lisease, wvas the most intriguing and bizarre. In the corrupted humours of the sufferers of this disease, lice were believed to develop by spontaneous generation, and tumours full of these insects rose on the skin.

Anesthesia Drugs in the Medieval Muslim Era


In the Middle Ages, Christian Europe was in a state of intellectual stagnation and the theological doctrine that pain serves God’s purpose and must not be alleviated militated against the improvement in methods of narcosis. Nuland points out that the Middle Ages in Europe were dark ages so far as advances in the pharmacology of anesthesia were concerned.

Integrative Medicine: Incorporating Medicine and Health into the Canon of MedievalEuropean History

Medieval medicine

Hitherto peripheral (if not outright ignored) in general medieval historiography, medieval medical history is now a vibrant subdiscipline, one that is rightly attracting more and more attention from ‘mainstream’ historians and other students of cultural history.

Integrative Medicine: Incorporating Medicine and Health into the Canon of Medieval European History

Medieval medicine

Hitherto peripheral (if not outright ignored) in general medieval historiography, medieval medical history is now a vibrant subdiscipline, one that is rightlyattracting more and more attention from ‘mainstream’ historians and other studentsof cultural history.

Menstruation in Sacred Places. Medieval and Early-Modern Jewish Women in the Synagogue

Jewish Women of Aragon dancing

How sacred is the Synagogue? Can a woman enter this holy place while menstruating? What is more sacred: the space, or the Holy objects within it?

Stature and frailty during the Black Death: the effect of stature on risks of epidemic mortality in London, A.D. 1348-1350

The excavation site at East Smithfield. Hendrik Poinar, an evolutionary geneticist at McMaster, has identified the bacteria responsible for causing the 1348 Black Death. Photo reproduced courtesy of the Museum of London

Recent research has shown that pre-existing health condition affected an individual ’ s risk of dying duringthe 14th-century Black Death. However, a previous study of the effect of adult stature on risk of mortality during the epidemic failed to find a relationship between the two; this result is perhaps surprising given the well-documented inverse association between stature and mortality in human populations.

Theodora, Aetius of Amida, and Procopius: Some Possible Connections


Behind the purported facts of Theodora’s career as a common prostitute and later as empress are the hidden details of what we might call feminine pharmacology: what were the drugs used by prostitutes and call-girls in sixth-century Byzan- tium? Were there ordinary pharmaceuticals employed by such professionals to stay in business?

Healthscaping a Medieval City: Lucca’s Curia viarum and the Future of Public Health History

The Politics of Health Reform from a Medieval Perspective

Healthscaping a Medieval City: Lucca’s Curia viarum and the Future of Public Health History G. Geltner (Department of History, University of Amsterdam) Urban History: 40, 3 (2013) Abstract In early fourteenth-century Lucca, one government organ began expanding its activities beyond the maintenance of public works to promoting public hygiene and safety, and in ways that suggest both […]

Sickness and Sin: Medicine, Epidemics and Heresy in the Middle Ages

Medieval medicine 2

Disease was more common, as already unsanitary populations grew more crowded, culminating with the devastating Black Death. With mostly Church chronicles telling the story, and a sense of religion underlying everyday life, comparisons were bound to be drawn between plagues and unruly dissent. On the one hand sickness of the body and the other a corruption of the mind.

Fasting and the female body : from the ascetic to the pathological


Importantly, the dietary practices of the early Christians cannot be understood as a single corpus of ideas or practices. It could mean going without food altogether, as in the case of one of the desert fathers, Simeon Stylites, who ate nothing for the whole of lent.

Post-mortem Ablation of the Heart: a Medieval Funerary Practice

leonardo da vinci - anatomical human heart

In the Middle Ages the heart represented the whole body. Unlike modern man for whom the brain is the centre of higher function, medieval Christians saw the heart as the moral and intel- lectual centre. Saint Augustine contributed much to this attitude by describing the heart not only as the seat of intelligence, will power, memory, emotion, and other feelings but also as the authentic and indivisible source of life.

Plagues, Epidemics and Their Social and Economic Impact on the Egyptian Society during the Mameluke Period

Burial of plague victims - The Black Death

The study aims at shedding light on plagues and epidemics that hit Egypt during the Mameluke period through describing the plague disease and the plagues and epidemics that hit Egypt, and their social and economic effects on the Egyptian society, The study is based on some historical sources contemporary of the Mameluke period, especially the book “Al-Suluk li-marifatiduwal Al-muluk” by Al Maqrizi.

Avicenna’s Concept of Cardiovascular Drug Targeting in Medicamenta Cordialia

Medieval Islamic medicine

Avicenna (980 – 1037 AD) known as the prince of physicians in the west was one of the most prominent Persian thinkers, philosophers, and physicians. Owing to his interests in cardiology, he authored considerable works on different aspects of cardiology.

Civic and Religious Understanding of the Mentally Ill, Incompetent, and Disabled of Medieval England

medieval disability

This brief summary covered the fourth paper given at KZOO’s Mental Health in Non-medical Terms. It covered ways in which theologians, like Thomas Aquinas, tried to categorize mental disability. Aquinas also tried to prove that the mentally impaired were able to receive sacraments depending their lucidity and where they fit in his four categories. It was an interesting and enjoyable paper.

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