University of Cambridge > > Departmental Seminars in History and Philosophy of Science > Bathing, bloodletting and bed-rest in the high medieval monastery

Bathing, bloodletting and bed-rest in the high medieval monastery

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Focusing on 12th-century English monastic communities, this paper considers three practical applications of healthcare undertaken within medieval monasteries. While the great monastic libraries would have contained medical manuscripts, the collection of such items varied from house to house and, more importantly, such materials would not have been accessible to the majority of the cloistered community. The practices of bathing and bloodletting, and the allowance for bed-rest, however, would have been experienced and witnessed first-hand by many of the community. As such, these practical applications have the potential to offer us insight into the healthcare within the monastery, and into monastic understandings of health and the body.

Within this paper, the three practices will be taken in turn to consider their uses, and concerns about their abuses, in order to draw attention to the practicalities of claustral healthcare, and to pose questions regarding medical practices within the monastery. The questions raised by this paper are also key to my next proposed research project; a project that intends to consider the experiences, understandings and practicalities of monastic healthcare within the Anglo-Norman world.

This talk is part of the Departmental Seminars in History and Philosophy of Science series.

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