Maladies and Medicine

Exploring Health & Healing, 1540–1740

Sara Read, Jennifer Evans

Date Published :
September 2017
Publisher :
Pen and Sword
Illustration :
30 illustrations
Format Available    QuantityPrice
ISBN : 9781473875715
Pages : 208
Dimensions : 9 X 6 inches
In stock


Maladies and Medicine offers a lively exploration of health and medical cures in early modern England. The introduction sets out the background in which the body was understood, covering the theory of the four humors and the ways that male and female bodies were conceptualized. It also explains the hierarchy of healers from university trained physicians, to the itinerant women healers who traveled the country offering cures based on inherited knowledge of homemade remedies. It covers the print explosion of medical health guides, which began to appear in the sixteenth century from more academic medical text books to cheap almanacs.

The book has twenty chapters covering attitudes towards, and explanations of some of, the most common diseases and medical conditions in the period and the ways people understood them, along with the steps people took to get better. It explores the body from head to toe, from migraines to gout. It was an era when tooth cavities were thought to be caused by tiny worms and smallpox by an inflammation of the blood, and cures ranged from herbal potions, cooling cordials, blistering the skin, and of course letting blood.

Case studies and personal anecdotes taken from doctors notes, personal journals, diaries, letters and even court records show the reactions of individuals to their illnesses and treatments, bringing the reader into close proximity with people who lived around 400 years ago. This fascinating and richly illustrated study will appeal to anyone curious about the history of the body and the way our ancestors lived.

About The Author

Dr Sara Read is a lecturer in English at Loughborough University. She holds a PhD in early modern literature. Her particular interest is in representations of the female body in literature and she has published widely in this field. Her first book Menstruation and the Female Body in Early Modern England was published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2013, and she has co-edited a collection of early modern women’s writings on the topic of health and spirituality called Flesh and Spirit: An Anthology of Seventeenth-century Women’s Writing for Manchester University Press, 2014. In addition, Dr Read has published a number of social history articles for Discover Your Ancestors magazine.

Jennifer Evans is a senior lecturer in History at the University of Hertfordshire. Her academic research is focused on the body, medicine and gender and covers the period 1550-1750\. To date her research has examined the understanding of infertility and its treatments in early modern England.


“My bedtime read at the moment is the Poldark series, set in the late 18th century, and one of the principal characters is the young doctor, Dwight Enys. Some of the practices used by his older colleagues in the same profession would make your stomach churn, and those same practices are adequately described in this superb teatise on medical treatments and ailments by authors Sarah Read and Jennifer Evans. This is an essential piece of social history that may literally have you in stitches – if you haven’t yet discovered the new BBC comedy Quacks, now is the time… and this is a wonderful book to fill you in on all those arcane practices as we started to develop modern methods of medical practice. Absolutely fascinating!”

- Books Monthly

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