Medicine through time (middle ages) (Treatments (Recently, historians have…
Medicine through time (middle ages)
Medieval doctors did not have a clue what caused disease.
Most doctors still believed the Greek theory that you became ill when the 'Four Humours' - phlegm, black bile, yellow bile, blood - became unbalanced
But they also blamed everything from the stars, to demons, to sin, to bad smells.
During epidemics, people would blame witches, or groups who were culturally different such as Jewish people, and attack them. When a disease like the Black Death hit England in 1348, the doctors were powerless to stop it killing half the population.
Recently, historians have suggested that many medieval treatments were successful, especially the herbal remedies. Nevertheless, successful cures were mixed up with, what seem to us, crazy cures. For example:
bleeding, applying leeches, or causing purging or vomiting
making the patient hot or cold, eg by taking hot baths
trepanning - cutting a hole in the skull
praying, or whipping themselves to try to earn God's forgiveness
There was some progress in the area of surgery. The Middle Ages was a time of constant warfare, so surgeons got lots of practice and realised that wine was a mild antiseptics and developed a range of painkillers, including opium
Medieval surgeons were very good at practical first aid and even attempted some internal surgery. They could heal wounds and broken bones do external surgery on such problems as ulcers and eye cataracts do some internal surgery such as bladder stones
It used to be thought that medieval towns were filthy, without drains, sewers or rubbish collections.
But modern historians found out
Parliament passed the first law requiring people to keep the streets and rivers clean in 1388.
Medieval people washed and exercised. Many towns had bath houses.
Towns paid 'gong farmers' to clear out human waste from cess pits.
Many towns had quarantine laws, boarded up the houses of plague victims, and isolated people with leprosy in 'lazar houses'.
Monasteries had running water and good toilet facilities.
Hospitals were built eg St Bartholomew's in London in 1123.
Nowadays, historians think that medieval towns were not as dirty as Early Modern towns – but the sights and smells of a medieval town would still probably have made you feel sick.