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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of History, Classics and Archaeology : History

Undergraduate Course: Medicine and health in Anglo-Saxon England and its neighbours (HIST10398)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of History, Classics and Archaeology CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryDespite their reputation as an age of ignorance and superstition, the early Middle Ages witnessed extensive efforts to understand and counteract illness and disease. This course examines the rich and varied body of medical writing which survives from Anglo-Saxon England, and explores the world of learning, religion and belief to which it attests.
Course description Ideas about health and illness are critically important in all societies, ancient and modern. Yet conventional accounts of the development of medical knowledge in the West have typically given little place to the ideas of the early Middle Ages, treating them instead as an era in which classical learning gave way to widespread ignorance and superstition. This course seeks to re-examine early medieval medicine on its own terms, focusing in particular on Anglo-Saxon England, from which we possess a rich and varied body of medical writing. This corpus of material provides a compelling insight into the social, intellectual and religious world of the Anglo-Saxons in the ninth, tenth and eleventh centuries CE.

The seminar programme runs as follows:
1. Introductory meeting
2. The human body in early medieval England
3. Theories of disease
4. Books of medicine
5. Sources of medical knowledge I: the ancient world
6. Sources of medical knowledge II: contemporary learning
7. From princes to paupers: the availability of medicine
8. Health and religion
9. Magical alternatives
10. Neighbouring traditions
11. What happened to early medieval medicine?

Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements A pass or passes in 40 credits of first level historical courses or equivalent and a pass or passes in 40 credits of second level historical courses or equivalent.
Before enrolling students on this course, Personal Tutors are asked to contact the History Honours Admission Administrator to ensure that a place is available (Tel: 50 3780).
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesVisiting students should usually have at least 3 History courses at grade B or above (or be predicted to obtain this) for entry to this course. We will only consider University/College level courses.
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. demonstrate, by way of essay and examination, an awareness of the medical beliefs of past societies and their development;
  2. develop and sustain historical arguments, both orally and in writing;
  3. handle a range of textual and non-textual evidence in the service of historical study, through in-class discussion of a wide range of primary source material;
  4. engage critically with the arguments of others, by means of sustained engagement with major works of secondary scholarship;
  5. show a greater capacity for self-directed study and independence of thought, gained through their weekly reading as well as by the writing of essays.
Reading List
Cameron, M., Anglo-Saxon Medicine (Cambridge, 1993)
Cockayne, T. (ed. and trans.), Leechdoms, Wortcunning and Starcraft of Early England, 3 vols. (London, 1864)
Hall, A., Elves in Anglo-Saxon England: Matters of Belief, Health, Gender and Identity (Woodbridge, 2007)
Kershaw, P., 'Illness, power and prayer in Asser's Life of King Alfred', Early Medieval Europe 10 (2001), 201-24
Lee, C., 'Changing faces: leprosy in Anglo-Saxon England', in Conversion and Colonization in Anglo-Saxon England, ed. C. Karkov and N. Howe (Tempe, 2006), 59-81
Meaney, A., Anglo-Saxon Amulets and Curing Stones (Oxford, 1981)
Pettit, E. (ed. and trans.), Anglo-Saxon Remedies, Charms, and Prayers from British Library MS Harley 585: The Lacnunga, 2 vols. (Lewiston, 2001)
Roberts, C. and M. Cox, Health and Disease in Medieval Britain: From Pre-History to the Present Day (Stroud, 2003)
Scragg, D. (ed.), Superstition and Popular Medicine in Anglo-Saxon England (Manchester, 1989)
Storms, G. (ed. and trans.), Anglo-Saxon Magic (The Hague, 1948)
Van Arsdall, A., Medieval Herbal Remedies: The Old English Herbarium and Anglo-Saxon Medicine (New York, 2002)
Wallis, F. (ed.), Medieval Medicine: A Reader (Toronto, 2010)
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
Course organiserDr Richard Sowerby
Tel: (0131 6)50 3854
Course secretaryMiss Cat Andrade
Tel: (0131 6)50 3780
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