Leprosy in Medieval England

Leprosy in Medieval England

Carole Rawcliffe


Hardback out of stock

Boydell Press



A major reassessment, based on hitherto unpublished manuscript material, of a disease whose history has attracted more myths and misunderstandings than any other.
Set firmly in the medical, religious and cultural milieu of the European Middle Ages, this book is the first serious academic study of a disease surrounded by misconceptions and prejudices. Even specialists will be surprised to learn that most of our stereotyped ideas about the segregation of medieval lepers originated in the nineteenth century; that leprosy excited a vast range of responses, from admiration to revulsion; that in the later Middle Ages it was diagnosed readily even by laity; that a wide range of treatment was available, that medieval leper hospitals were no more austere than the monasteries on which they were modelled; that the decline of leprosy was not monocausal but implied a complex web of factors - medical, environmental, social and legal. Carole Rawcliffe writes with consummate skill, subtlety and rigour; her book will change forever the image of the medieval leper.

CAROLE RAWCLIFFE is Professor of Medieval History at the University of East Anglia.


35 black and white, 6 line illustrations
436 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
Paperback, 9781843834540, April 2009
Hardback, 9781843832737, October 2006
Boydell Press
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Table of Contents

Creating the medieval leper: some myths and misunderstandings
The body and the soul: ideas about causation
The sick and the healthy: reactions to suffering
Priests and physicians: the business of diagnosis
Medicine and surgery: the battle against disease
A Disease appart? The impact of segregation
Life in the medieval leper house


[An] important contribution. MEDICAL HISTORY

A comprehensive and detailed history. [...] A major contribution to the study of medieval society, particularly its values and perceptions. SOUTHERN HISTORY SOCIETY

It is fair to say that Carole Rawcliffe has written the definitive study of leprosy in medieval England. Comprising more than 350 pages of text with illustrations, this meticulously researched work explores the topic from every imaginable angle by exploiting an impressive array of evidence. JOURNAL OF BRITISH STUDIES

Provides a much-needed corrective to the general understanding of how medieval society viewed leprosy and treated its victims. SOCIAL HISTORY OF MEDICINE

In this comprehensive, thoughtfully argued, compelling, fascinating, rigorous and extensively researched work, Carole Rawcliffe sets out to disabuse the reader of all the most dearly-held modern misconceptions of the medieval leper, and succeeds. [...] A compassionate, compelling, and important model for (re)writing the history of the disease. THE MEDIEVAL REVIEW

An important book, written with a great deal of erudition. THE RICARDIAN

Author Bio

Professor of Medieval History, School of History, University of East Anglia

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