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Flashcards in Medieval Britain Deck (69)
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Time period of the Medieval Britain



Who were two significant individuals from the Ancient World?

- Greeks: Hippocrates- a physician who emphasised importance of close observation of patients & making detailed notes of their conditions.
- Romans: Galen- a surgeon and doctor.


The Theory of the Four Humours

Hippocrates linked a patient’s characteristics to way of diagnosing illness which was called the Four Humours theory. The four humours were choleric- hot and dry- melancholic- cold and dry- sanguine- hot and wet- and phlegmatic- cold and wet.


What was the Four Humours Theory based on?

The theory of the Four Humours was based on the principle of everything in the world being made of four. Four seasons / Four “elements” / Four Humours.


What else were the Humours linked to?

- Humours were also linked with seasons, star signs and personalities too.
- e.g. too much blood in summer = people got fevers
too much phlegm in winter = explaining colds.
- The star signs for each season were subsequently linked with each humour - e.g. Capricorn (December/January) was linked with phlegm.
- If someone was depressed = too much melancholic


What was the Theory of Opposites?

- Galen developed the theory that you could balance out Humours by giving someone the opposite to their symptoms.
- E.g if someone had a cold- involving cold and wet phlegm- he would offer them advice to eat a hot pepper- hot and dry.


What was the other rational Roman belief?

Miasma/miasmata- the belief that bad smelling air had the ability to make a person sick.


What did the Romans do to deal with miasmata?

- Tried to keep cities clean
- Ensure waste and sewage was removed from an area
- Not station an army close to a cesspit (an open sewage pit)


Where did the Greeks go to treat disease?

- They built Asclepions where people would rest + wait for Asclepius- Greek god of healing - to visit them in the night and heal them.
- The first places for the sick to go and rest to get better


What did Asclepsions have to offer?

- Baths
- Gymnasiums


What were Asclepsions?

More like temples than hospitals; they believed in healing power of Gods + saw them as more important than anything else the Asclepsions had to offer.


Religious beliefs about the causes of disease in Medieval times

- Disease was sent from God to punish the sins of mankind.
- Interactionalistic duality- the belief that God and Satan are in a constant battle and when Satan begins to win, people get sick.
- Not keeping clean (both yourself and your home) would anger God ---> make you more likely to be cursed with illness.


Rational beliefs about the causes of disease in Medieval times

- Miasma- Belief that the air was filled with harmful fumes.
- Contagion- People had hunches that diseases like leprosy, although “sent from God”, could be caught.
- Four Humours- imbalance in the humours would lead to mental and physical illness.


Supernatural beliefs about the causes of disease in Medieval times

- Astrology- people used astrology and the presence as comets in the sky as explanations of disease.


Why was the Church so powerful in Medieval times in terms of both religious and non-religious matters?

- Only Church at the start of the Middle Ages.
- Lack of scientific knowledge- people looked to the Church for explanations
- Fear of God
- They limited any new ideas, keeping the Church's strength high


Were supernatural/religious beliefs in the causes of disease more influential than rational ones?

Yes- Church had final say. However, they didn't completely shy away from all rational thought, like the ideas of Galen (and by extension Hippocrates), and the theory of Miasma.


Why did the Church allow the theories of Galen (and by extension Hippocrates)?

- Galen often wrote about a monotheistic deity known as the 'creator'; this fitted with Christian belief in God
- Galen believed in the idea of the soul; again, this fitted with Christian beliefs


Methods of prevention in Medieval Britain

- Regimen Sanitatis -pray first and then bathe
- Stay clean to avoid God's wrath
- Healing prayers + incantations
- Paying for a special mass


Methods of treatment in Medieval Britain

- Exorcisms
- Self-flagellation
- Being touched by the hands of the King - who was believed to be God’s representative on Earth
- Humoural treatments- to rebalance the humours
- Herbal remedies
- Supernatural non-religious treatments


Examples of humoural treatments in Medieval Britain

- Blood-letting (now known as phlebotomy) - normally done by Barber Surgeons + wise women.
- Purging- encouragement of vomiting or diarrhea


Three methods of bloodletting

- Cutting a vein
- Using leeches
- Cupping


How did people achieve 'purging'?

Used emetics or a laxative to encourage vomiting or diarrhea.


What was an example of a commonly used herbal remedy mix?

Therica which included up to 70 ingredients including ginger and saffron.


What book was published about herbal remedies?

Materia Medica, which detailed 600 plants, trees and minerals.


What book was published about supernatural but non-religious treatments?

Circa Instans published in the 12th century detailed minerals and metals and how to use them in spells and chants.


Why was self-flagellation seen as a preventions?

By showing repentance for your sins, there was no reason for God to punish you with illness.


Why were exorcisms seen as a treatment?

Possession by a demon was the sole explanation for heathenism, seizures, violent mental disorders, etc. Exorcism was thought to expel the demon.


What did an exorcism involve?

Often, it involved subjecting the 'possessed' individual to abuse such as starvation and torture.


Methods of diagnosis

- Urine charts
- Astrology charts
- Patient's d.o.b


How educated were physicians and what did they do?

Physicians- university trained + v.expensive. They would diagnose a patient's illness rather than treat it.