John Aberth holds a PhD in medieval history from the University of Cambridge and is the author of numerous books on disease and the Middle Ages, including Plagues in World History. He lives in Roxbury, Vermont.
List of Illustrations
The Challenge of Interpreting Plague Treatises
The Poison Thesis: A New Paradigm for Plague Medicine?
Origins of the Poison Thesis
The Poison Orthodoxy
The Artificial Poison Conspiracy
Universal and Remote Causes
Particular and Near Causes
Bodily Symptoms—Bubonic Plague
Bodily Symptoms—Pneumonic Plague
Bodily Symptoms—Septicemic Plague
Predispositions to Plague
Prevention as a Public Good
Prevention by Social Class
Principles of the Plague Cure
Doctors Who Treated Themselves
Audience and Reputation of Plague Doctors
Epilogue: Plague’s Verdict on Medieval Medicine
Appendix: Table Sources
About the Author
This is an important and timely book. Drawing on 240 plague treatises, John Aberth offers an illuminating look at how medieval doctors made use of their firsthand observations of the Black Death. Full of new insights about how medieval doctors understood the causes of and treated the plague, this book also challenges critical commonplaces that see medieval approaches to the plague as entirely indebted to traditional knowledge and authorities. Instead, the study reveals the extent to which many medieval doctors also derived their knowledge of the plague from empirically based observations. Both deeply erudite and engaging, Doctoring the Black Death should be mandatory reading for all those interested in medical history, social responses to pandemics, and medieval culture.
In this lucid and engaging book, John Aberth thoroughly describes and contextualizes how physicians understood and responded to the Black Death. Aberth’s copious excerpts from a wide variety of plague treatises vividly illustrate the complexity and resilience of medieval medicine in the face of an unprecedented public health crisis.
A welcome reassessment of Europe’s medical responses to the dreadful ‘emerging disease’ of the late Middle Ages: plague. Drawing on over 200 medical treatises from across Europe, including Muslim Spain and the writings of Jewish physicians, John Aberth examines how medical practitioners (some of whom died carrying out their duties) addressed questions of the pandemic’s cause and formulated protocols for describing symptoms, preventative measures, and therapies. Engagingly written, Aberth’s invaluable book illuminates the early years of the Second Plague Pandemic.