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Leprosy in Premodern Medicine

A Malady of the Whole Body

Luke Demaitre

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While premodern poets and preachers viewed leprosy as a "disease of the soul," physicians in the period understood it to be a "cancer of the whole body." In this innovative study, medical historian Luke Demaitre explores medical and social perspectives on leprosy at a time when judicious diagnosis could spare healthy people from social ostracization and help the afflicted get a license to beg.

Extending his inquiry from the first century to late in the eighteenth century, Demaitre draws on translations of academic treatises and archival records to illuminate the professional standing, knowledge...

While premodern poets and preachers viewed leprosy as a "disease of the soul," physicians in the period understood it to be a "cancer of the whole body." In this innovative study, medical historian Luke Demaitre explores medical and social perspectives on leprosy at a time when judicious diagnosis could spare healthy people from social ostracization and help the afflicted get a license to beg.

Extending his inquiry from the first century to late in the eighteenth century, Demaitre draws on translations of academic treatises and archival records to illuminate the professional standing, knowledge, and conduct of the practitioners who struggled to move popular perceptions of leprosy beyond loathing and pity. He finds that, while not immune to social and cultural perceptions of the leprous as degenerate, and while influenced by their own fears of contagion, premodern physicians moderated society's reactions to leprosy and were dedicated to the well-being of their patients.

Reviews

Reviews

To date, the most thorough examination of how contemporaries understood leprosy and dealt with its sufferers.

Demaitre's compelling work is engaging and informative... I recommend this work highly.

Demaitre's book is a very good read not only for its information about leprosy but also for all interested in or affected by the social phenomenon of stigma.

In this meticulously researched and beautifully written study, Luke Demaitre provides a comprehensive examination of leprosy in premodern medicine.

Demaitre provides a well-written, scholarly, and accessible book that affords a holistic view of leprosy in premodern medicine as seen in historical documents... This book will be an important resource particularly for medical historians and paleopathologists but will be of interest to the medical profession.

About

Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
6
x
9
Pages
344
ISBN
9780801886133
Illustration Description
8 b&w illus., 11 halftones
Table of Contents

Introduction
Acknowledgments
1. The Sources: Texts and Contexts
2. Iudicium leprosorum: Medical Judgment
3. The Many Labels of Leprosy
4. Definitions and Explanations
5. "Une maladie contagieuse et

Introduction
Acknowledgments
1. The Sources: Texts and Contexts
2. Iudicium leprosorum: Medical Judgment
3. The Many Labels of Leprosy
4. Definitions and Explanations
5. "Une maladie contagieuse et héréditaire"
6. Causes, Categories, and Correlations
7. Diagnosis: Signs and Symptoms
8. Prognosis, Prevention, and Treatment
Conclusion
Notes
Index

Author Bio
Featured Contributor

Luke Demaitre, Ph.D.

Luke Demaitre is a visiting professor of history in the Humanities in Medicine Program at the University of Virginia. He is the author of Doctor Bernard de Gordon, Professor and Practitioner.