The practice of medicine in England about the year 1000

Soc Hist Med. 2000 Aug;13(2):221-37. doi: 10.1093/shm/13.2.221.


The paper begins with the medical practitioners of late Anglo-Saxon England, were apparently both physicians and surgeons, describing the kinds of ailments they are evidenced as treating. The majority were monastic; whether there were also lay medics is uncertain. Most Anglo-Saxon ecclesiastical foundations appear to have had an infirmary, where sick monks or nuns, or those who were about to die, were looked after. Some infirmaries may have tended lay people, but there do not appear to have been any hospitals in the later medieval sense. The rest of the paper looks at the contents of one manuscript written about the year 1000: London, British Library MS. Harley 585, which contains texts of three compilations in old English: the Herbarium and the Medicina de Quadrupedibus, both translated from Latin, and the Lacnunga, which is a collection of remedies from diverse sources, some translated from Latin, some of native origin, some wholly rational, some containing Christian or folkloric incantations and rituals, and including four metrical charms. Because of its lack of selectivity and orgarization, it gives an invaluable insight into the condition of, and the attitude to, Anglo-Saxon medicine about the end of the first millennium.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • England
  • History, Medieval
  • Medicine*