Medieval Bodies: Life and Death in the Middle Ages

Medieval Bodies: Life and Death in the Middle Ages Review

Medieval beliefs about the body were drastically different from ours today: Hair was thought to be a condensation of fumes emitted from the pores, ideas were supposedly committed to memory by being directly imprinted on the brain, and the womb of a goat was believed to function as a contraceptive. But while this medieval medicine now seems archaic, it also made a critical contribution to modern science.


Medieval Bodies guides us on a head-to-heel journey through this era’s revolutionary advancements and disturbing convictions. We learn about the surgeons who dissected a living man’s stomach, then sewed him up again; about the geographers who delineated racial groups by skin color; and about the practice of fasting to gain spiritual renown. Encompassing medicine and mysticism, politics and art—and complete with vivid, full-color illustrations—Medieval Bodies shows us how it felt to live and die a thousand years ago.

Title:Medieval Bodies: Life and Death in the Middle Ages
Edition Language:English

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    Medieval Bodies: Life and Death in the Middle Ages Reviews

  • Richard Newton

    In the category of book as physical object this would gain 5 stars. Beautifully presented and well illustrated, this is a lovely object. The writing is to a high standard, erudite and mostly interesti...

  • Maru Kun

    Subscription only review in LRB, but sounds a really interesting book: https://www.lrb.co.uk/v40/n19/barbara......

  • Siria

    I was excited to read this, because it got rave reviews and the cover is so enticing—I thought perhaps it could become the core text for a course I'm thinking of teaching on the medieval body and me...

  • Sam Tornio

    If you want an introductory survey to the period that also manages to dive into the minutiae of things, this is your book....

  • Stephen Goldenberg

    I’d just finished a novel set in the 1490s (Samantha Harvey’s The Western Wind) and this was a very suitable follow-on. The novel paints a pretty grim picture of life in an isolated Medieval Engli...

  • Jill

    An exquisitely beautiful book; like being handed an ornate 13th century reliquary casket to play with! Medieval Bodies is an informative, entertaining and eminently readable rumination on how Medieval...

  • Rory

    Solid enough but unexciting. In using the parts of the body as jumping-off points to explore wider Medieval culture, it becomes broad and shallow where a deep and narrow approach would have been more ...

  • Chris Davies

    This is an entertaining, wide ranging and well written book about life in the Middle Ages. Like others, I was expecting more of a focus on medieval views of how the body worked, illnesses and treatmen...

  • Liz H

    Gives a remarkably broad overview of medieval history, society and culture all through the lens of the human body (as perceived by medieval Europe and Middle East) Organized by chapters devoted to bod...

  • Marks54

    This is a book by a British Art Historian about how medieval people thought about their bodies, their health and sickness, their life and death, during the Middle Ages before we learned what we have l...