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Medicine in the Middle Ages (Hardback)

Surviving the Times

Medieval History P&S History Social History Medieval

By Juliana Cummings
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 208
Illustrations: 20 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781526779342
Published: 29th October 2021

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The Middle Ages covers a span of roughly one thousand years, and through that time people were subject to an array of not only deadly diseases but deplorable living conditions. It was a time when cures for sickness were often worse than the illness itself mixed with a population of people who lacked any real understanding of sanitation and cleanliness.

Dive in to the history of medieval medicine, and learn how the foundations of healing were built on the knowledge of ancient Greek and Roman philosophers. Understand how your social status would have affected medical care, and how the domination of the Catholic Church was the basis of an abundant amount of fear regarding life and death.

We are given an intimate look into the devastating time of the Black Death, along with other horrific ailments that would have easily claimed a life in the Middle Ages. Delve inside the minds of the physicians and barbersurgeons for a better understanding of how they approached healing.

As well as diving into the treacherous waters of medieval childbirth, Cummings looks into the birth of hospitals and the care for the insane. We are also taken directly to the battlefield and given the gruesome details of medieval warfare and its repercussions. Examine the horrors of the torture chamber and execution as a means of justice.

Medicine in the Middle Ages is a fascinating walk through time to give us a better understanding of such a perilous part of history.

"I would recommend this book to anyone with a layman’s interest in medicine through the Middle Ages. Juliana certainly provides a factual account, with a broad area of knowledge."

Alison Wall, Local history/ nursing and public health groups

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars


I have always been a huge fan of history, with medical history being one of my favorite sub-genre's to read about. The moment I saw this book I knew I had to read it. It just FELT like it would have the answers to some questions I've always wondered about concerning medical/health problems of the past. And boy did it !!

I'm sure somebody out there could write a very longgggggg, dry, technical manual to Medieval medical history and I'm sure it would be very helpful! But unless you're a college student, professor, or someone in the field, I don't see that book being very enjoyable. THIS book is enjoyable! Juliana Cummings does a wonderful job of keeping facts moving within the text while not boring the reader with every finite detail of the medical history of Medieval Times. Each chapter covers a different "piece" of the Medieval medical pie (if you will) but flow wonderfully together as a whole text.

Juliana Cummings has definitely done her research and she has made a lovely book that brings the facts and history to life for anyone who has ever wondered about the past. Although the Medieval period can be seen today as dark, unsanitary, and almost inhumane, Juliana Cummings takes the good and the bad and shows that at the end of the day people are people.

A great read for anyone who loves history, medicine, or just something full of very interesting facts. This book will definitely win you "cool points" when you start mentioning facts at a Holiday Party! 10/10 !

NetGalley, Catharine Hauk

A good overview of the history of medieval medicine, its origins, and development through the period in question.

NetGalley, Mark Whitley

Accessibly written with a knack for context and an ability to present complex topics in easily digestible bites, Medicine in the Middle Ages was a fascinating read. I highly recommend it to any nonfiction reader who enjoys books that seamlessly blend science and history.

NetGalley, Sarah Chorn

I found it interesting and informative. There's plenty of information... I learned something new.
Recommended.

NetGalley, Anna Maria Giacomasso

A great insightful book on a topic that needs to be discussed and researched more. I find the way medicine has evolved fascinating and it was great to hear about the meaning behind procedures we hear about a lot but don't understand... I would recommend it to people interested in medicine or history.

NetGalley, Alexandra P

This book was well written, informative and comprehensive.

For anyone interested in history, I would recommend reading this.

NetGalley, Rebecca Sims

I think this was a decent introductory book into the vast world of medieval medical history. Cummings’s writing style is easy to follow, and she has done her research about this subject. If you want a solid introductory book into the world of medieval medical history, you should check out “Medicine in the Middle Ages: Surviving the Times” by Juliana Cummings.

NetGalley, Heidi Malagisi

A definite and insightful offering into the way medicine was taught and practised for over one thousand years. Ms Cummings begins with the basic information on the medical science during the ancient times, with emphasis on the role of the Arab world, which is helpful while following the progress of medicine during the later centuries. A panorama of places and practitioners of all kinds and diseases that prevailed till the beginning of Rennaisance is well-presented and easy to follow for a reader interested in the period. Personally, I found the chapters on mental disorders and the evolution of a surgeon most interesting.

NetGalley, Beata B. Reviewer

This was a good book! It offered a slice of history in a interesting and engaging way. I feel like I learnt a lot of history from reading it and it didn’t even feel like hard work - it was enjoyable!

NetGalley, Charlotte Papadopoulo

A very interesting book on medicine in the middle ages and the role religion played on it, and its development. Truly showing that medicine today is vastly different. Well researched.

NetGalley, Lional Jones

Excellent, a thoroughly detailed and comprehensive examination of medicine of the time accompanied with background to the history and historical events. I found this book very informative and accessible and I learned a great deal even though I have read quite extensively about the era and medicine through time.
The level of detail was good and I found it sensitively written rather than gratuitously gory (although I did find the descriptions of the yuckier parts fascinating)... Absolutely recommend this book.

NetGalley, Helen Frost

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

The author has produced a brilliant work on medical history and her extensive research and thorough understanding of it comes out through each lines of the book. The language is very easy to understand and the facts has been presented in a very interesting way. Being from medical background myself, I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

NetGalley, Jayoti Mondal

Medicine in the Middle Ages: Surviving the Times by Juliana Cummings is a very readable and informative account of both life and medicine during that period.

I know that some readers want an uncontextualized account of what medicine was like during the time, but without some foundation, without understanding how the people thought about life, on Earth and in the hereafter, it is hard to fully grasp some of the, to us, crazy things that passed for medical procedures. So while the first part of the book is less about medicine and more about how and why life was the way it was, it is essential for those who want more than just a curiosity book about peculiar medieval medicine. This is a history book, not a curiosity book.

That said, once that foundation has been laid is when the real interesting part of the book begins. From war wounds to women's health we are taken through what was done, why, and how effective it was, or wasn't. This is fascinating even if you have some previous knowledge.

The writing is good and Cummings makes each point clearly and ties it into the society within which it existed. In other words, while we still are reading this with our 21st century knowledge of medicine and science, we are also reminded that these practitioners lived in very different times with very different ways of accounting for illnesses and injuries. Keeping that in mind helps us to appreciate what they did manage to get right.

I would recommend this to readers who like to read about specific aspects of life in the middle ages but with some contextualization. As long as you like history with your science you will be pleased. If you just want stories about medical beliefs and procedures without the history around them, the very first part of the book, the history part, may not be as interesting to you, but read it anyway, it will enrich your reading of the rest of the book.

NetGalley, Jack Messer

As a healthcare professional who is drawn to science and history, I was intrigued by the title and curious to get my hands on a copy of Medicine in the Middle Ages. Give yourself some time to relish in all the historical details provided. This treasure reads a lot like a textbook, but without the dryness... I love seeing the progression of medicine and the thought processes and rationales for why things were done the way they were done. Cummings does justice to the Middle Ages of Medicine.

NetGalley, Brandi Rawlins

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I found this to be a really enjoyable read, written in such a conversational manner that it was very easy reading. I was expecting it to just be facts about the medical procedures of the time, but it was more about general life in the medieval times and how it affected their health, and then what they did to try and combat those things. It's a great read if you have teens studying this era in history as it's interesting yet honest, or for adults who want to develop an interest in history

NetGalley, Saffron Melnyk

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This was a brilliant written account of medicine in the Middle Ages, from injuries in the battle field to the effects of different societal classes on the medical care you might receive. The book covered an awful lot and was a great foundation to the topic of medicine of the Middle Ages.

I really enjoyed the writing style of this book and found it very engaging and entertaining to read. Some history books can sometimes feel a bit heavy going but this one was effortless.

The chapter on war wounds was a really interested read as well as the origins of hospitals and how they were founded. I loved reading about the history of different types of diseases and illnesses that plagued the people of the times. I found it really well researched and it was such an informative account on how treatments were performed, the sort of things physicians would have done and what they collectively thought at the time. I also found it so so interesting in the chapter on mental illnesses and how they were perceived and treated at the time, as well as many of the monarch and notable members of royalty that suffered from them.

Along with some notable figures and founding fathers of modern science and medicine, the book also covered torture and how not only were they striving to understand more about healing the body, but also about how they could inflict the most punishment and pain when it came to torture and punishing crime.

It’s amazing how much times have changed and looking back in it now, it’s so easy to think that they were misinformed idiots back then when it comes to medicine but it’s easy to forget they hadn’t yet founded germ theory and had no idea what the causes of sickness were. It’s certainly an eye opener!

This is a definite recommended read if you’re interested in medicine and history, I really enjoyed it!

NetGalley, Nicola Wilton

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Such an interesting read! With one of my kiddos studying the middle age, it was fun to incorporate some of this information in our studies!

NetGalley, Summer Hickman

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I was amazed by this book!... Read this over two days and sure I’ll come back and read it again as it’s a subject I love!

NetGalley, Michelle Coates

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Medicine in the Middle Ages is exceptionally gripping and informative resplendent with many macabre and grotesque details of life and death in the era when life was all about survival in all social classes. The author's extensive research reveals the means of death of millions including well-known causes such as Black Death, syphilis, smallpox, dysentry, cholera, torture and war injuries but also lesser-known causes including St. Anthony's Fire and The Sweat. The Catholic church also played a huge role in how people viewed life and death, divine intervention and treatment of the mentally and physically sick.

The author also describes the contributions of Aristotle, Galen and Hippocrates to medicine. Autopsies were performed on criminals which provided far more information than textbook examples and theories. Roles of the butcher-surgeon are explained. Contagion was not yet known about so the world was rife with disease caused by filth and treatment of food, raw sewage (pattens only went so far), animal carcasses rotten meat thrown hither and thither, mould, fleas and lice. Childbirth was massively risky. Reeds on floors held years of disgusting remnants.

Not only are causes of sickness and death discussed but also treatments such as cupping, feathers in the throat, syrups, ointments, poultices, enemas, mercury and arsenic. No wonder patients frequently died of treatment rather than the original illness/injury. Some of the most interesting stories to me are those of tissue harvesting, worms in teeth, arrow distraction and rat torture. At the back of the book are illustrations.

History readers interested in anatomy, medicine and treatment please do read this compelling book. It is incredibly insightful and riveting. No matter how much you know, you will definitely learn more!

NetGalley, Brenda Carleton

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

What a fascinating look at medicine from the time of the Greeks and Hippocrates all the way through the Middle Ages. I loved learning all the ways in which humors spread. The author did a famous job keeping the reading engaged while learning of the filthy ways on which people lived during these times.

NetGalley, Maggie Palner

A great insight into how medical treatments were developed and also how religions have played a part in it’s development. I would recommend this book.

NetGalley, Vicky Jones

About Juliana Cummings

Juliana has been writing for close to thirty years. From her first publication in her junior high newspaper to her current writings on Tudor and Medieval history, writing has always been Juliana’s passion in life. While she has always been interested in history, she discovered that her family lineage led to Tudor Royalty, which pursued her to learn even more.


Through years of research, Juliana considers herself an expert on all things Tudor. Her interests also lie strongly with other aspects of medieval history, particularly the history of medicine and the macabre.


As well as actively writing her blog which focuses on the diary of a Lady in Waiting to Queen Katherine of Aragon, she continues to write for various publications in both the UK and US. Her work has been published in History is Now magazine, Matt’s History Blog, A Tudor Writing Circle.com as well as Tudor Dynasty.com. Juliana has also self-published on Amazon.com. She currently runs her website and Facebook page, The Savage Revolt.


Juliana lives in central Massachusetts with her husband, children, and her mini dachshund, Pumpkin.

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