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Medicine and surgery in the Livre des Assises de la Cour des Bourgeois de Jérusalem

The Assizes of Jerusalem
The Assizes of Jerusalem
The Assizes of Jerusalem

Medicine and surgery in the Livre des Assises de la Cour des Bourgeois de Jérusalem

Susan B. Edgington

Al-Masaq: Islam and the Medieval Mediterranean, 17:1, 87-97 (2005)

Abstract

The Livre des Assises, written in the thirteenth century in Acre, not only provides insights into the practice of medicine and surgery in the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem, but also suggests that the licensing and regulation of doctors reflected contemporary Islamic practice.

Le livre des Assises de la Cour des Bourgeois de Jerusalem is extant in two manuscripts and an early printed translation (into Italian), but is most conveniently consulted in the edition of Beugnot printed in the Recueil des Historiens des Croisades. This edition has been much criticised, however, and the definitive commentary by Joshua Prawer informs this preliminary description.2 The Assises were formerly thought to be a true reflection of the laws for non-nobles, as practised in the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem during the First Kingdom (1099–1187). Prawer demonstrated that the book was written as a private treatise by an individual living in Acre, almost certainly between 1240 and 1244.

This was a burgess, a person with practical experience of the law courts, but not an academic lawyer. He based much of what he wrote on a treatise of Roman law, Lo Codi, written in Provenc ̧al in the middle of the twelfth century, but he also incorporated a great deal of specific case law. Additionally, the author added chapters, including two on medicine and surgery in which – Prawer hypothesised – he was showing off his own knowledge of the medical profession. The whole collection, which comprises 278 chapters in all, is a chaotic mixture of property, criminal, civil and commercial laws, and the ‘‘medical’’ chapters are among the last group, towards the end. The content of the two ‘‘medical’’ chapters will be summarized before questions of analogues and antecedents are addressed.

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