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New Medieval Books: Mind and Body

Five new books about the Middle Ages that deal with topics related to health and good living.

How to Live Like a Monk: Medieval Wisdom for Modern Life

By Danièle Cybulskie

Abbeville Press
ISBN: 9780789214133

Excerpt: If you’re interested in committing yourself to a monastic community to serve the will of God with your whole heart and soul, this is probably not the book for you. It seems safe to say, though, that many yearn for peace, simplicity, and purpose in our lives, and these are some of the principles around which the monastic path was created. So, for those of us who wish to live like monks, not as monks, read on for some ways in which the monastic life of the European Middle Ages can help us to live ad regulam—toward a rule that’s of our own making, in tune with our own goals and values.

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The Philosopher Responds: An Intellectual from the Tenth Century

By Abū Ḥayyān al-Tawḥīdī and Abū ʿAlī Miskawayh, translated by Sophia Vasalou and James E. Montgomery

New York University Press
ISBN: 9781479871483

Excerpt: Taken simply, the book consists of a series of wide-ranging questions posed by the litterateur Abū Ḥayyān al-Tawḥīdī to the philosopher and historian Abū ʿAlī Miskawayh. The Arabic title of the book, al-Hawāmil wa-l- shawāmil, makes this dual character somewhat clearer than its English rendering. Hawāmil are camels that have been left free to wander without bridle or burden—such are al-Tawḥīdī’s questions. In answering them, Miskawayh seeks to contain (shamila) these wandering questions and bring them home as a good “herder” and “steward” would.

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Medicine in the Middle Ages: Surviving the Times

By Juliana Cummings

Pen and Sword Books
ISBN: 978 1 52677 934 2

Excerpt: I will walk you through the origins of medicine dating back to Ancient Greek civilization and explore some of the great minds behind medicine. I’ll help you to understand the power of the Catholic church had on the sick and dying. Together we will grasp the importance of social structure and living conditions and better understand the role hierarchy had in preventing the spread of disease. You’ll be able to understand why the plague was so very deadly and why people did more to inhibit its growth than stop it. I hope to help women grasp some concept of the terrifying ordeal of childbirth, and I will elaborate on the rise of hospitals in the treatment of the mentally ill.

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Acts of Care: Recovering Women in Late Medieval Health

By Sara Ritchey

Cornell University Press
ISBN: 9781501753558

Excerpt: The women investigated in this book inhabited this urban social scene. They founded, managed, and staffed hospitals, leprosaria, and infirmaries; they cared for the dead and prepared bodies for burial; and they sometimes worked outside of institutional settings, begging for food, medicines, or clothing on behalf of the sick and infirm. They visited the sick and dying at bedsides in private homes, and occasionally the sick would journey from afar to access their healthcare services. This book seeks to reconstruct the therapeutic epistemologies that animated their practices; that is, it looks for the kinds of thinking, the logic or specific rationale, that brought together the variety of caregiving practices religious women used.

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Disability and the Tudors: All the King’s Fools

By Phillipa Vincent-Connolly

Pen and Sword Books
ISBN: 978 1 52672 005 4

Excerpt: The existence of disabled people has been woven through the tapestries and popular narratives of history. Disabled people were never seen as ‘winners’ or victors, so our history over time has been hidden in plain sight – ignored, untold, and viewed as insignificant. Disability history is an important topic to debate, research, and publish because such study directs its readers towards general reclamation of our British history which rightfully includes its disabled participants.

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