History - Medieval Medicine

History Gcse medicine through time revision cards focusing on medieval medicine

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Medieval Medicine


  • Greek and roman ideas were lost - monastires alone hung onto learning
  • But these ideas still survived in the middle east.
  • Dominated by the Catholic church - very superstitious.
  • The big roman cities disintegrated into small towns governed by a local lord.
  • So they could not afford Universities for learning or public health systems.
  • Communications were difficult so ideas traveled slowly.
  • Technology was limited and advanced roman technology was lost.

Causes of downfall in the Middle Ages:

  • Loss of medical knowledge - bad, unqualified doctors i.e Quakers
  • Emphasis of authority rather than observation and investigation
  • Lack or resources to build public health systems.
  • Social disorder and war, disrupted communication and learning

However, the church crusades in the east brought some Arabic medicine to Europe.

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Arabic Medicine

Arabic Medicine in the Middle East:

  • They translated the works of galen and Hippocrates - still used the idea of the four humours and theory of opposites - kept clean, eat healthly, excerised - better the Europe.
  • But they didn't make any attempt to progress there own studies of medicine.
  • Dissection was forbidden.
  • To Understand there theories was more important than practicing them.
  • They taught reading and writing and most people could read and write so they works of Galen and Hippocrates could be publicly distributed - these ideas were easy to spread.
  • They cared very heavily for the sick and believed it was a 'religious duty'
  • The European crusades to the East brought Europeans into contact with Arab medicine and even brought some back to England.
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The Plague - 1345

Black Death:

  • There were two types - the bubonic plague and pneumonic plague.
  • Both carried in the gut of the oriental flee in boats from italy etc. - dirty cities and no knowledge of germs spread the disease rapidly.

Different theories about the causes:

  • The un-balancing of the four humours - Galens Opposite theory.
  • Astronomy - movement of the sun and planets, Adjacent etc.
  • Believed it was a punishment from God or caused by the devil - Flagellants believed this and punished themselves by whipping themselves to repent for there sins.
  • Invisible fumes or potions in the air - miasma.
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