The Dying and the Doctors

The Dying and the Doctors

The Medical Revolution in Seventeenth-Century England

Ian Mortimer


Royal Historical Society



A survey of the changes in medical care for those approaching death in the early modern period.
From the sixteenth century onwards, medical strategies adopted by the seriously ill and dying changed radically, decade by decade, from the Elizabethan age of astrological medicine to the emergence of the general practitioner in the early eighteenth century. It is this profound revolution, in both medical and religious terms, as whole communities' hopes for physical survival shifted from God to the doctor, that this book charts. Drawing on more than eighteen thousand probate accounts, it identifies massive increases in the consumption of medicines and medical advice by all social groups and in almost all areas. Most importantly, it examines the role of the towns in providing medical services to rural areas and hinterlands [using the diocese of Canterbury as a particular focus], and demonstrates the extending ranges of physicians', surgeons' and apothecaries' businesses. It also identifies a comparable revolution in community nursing, from its unskilled status in 1600 to a more exclusive one by 1700.

IAN MORTIMER is an independent historian and Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Exeter.

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4 line illustrations
246 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
Royal Historical Society Studies in History New Series
Paperback, 9780861933266, February 2015
Hardback, 9780861933020, July 2009
Library eBook
Royal Historical Society
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Table of Contents

The medicalisation of East Kent
The medicalisation of central southern England
The availability and nature of medical assistance
Medical practices
The nature and availability of nursing care
Plague and smallpox
Appendix: Medical indices for East Kent, West Sussex, Berkshire and Wiltshire


An important book for the social history of medicine. ENGLISH HISTORICAL REVIEW

Mortimer's description and conclusions must inform our understanding of seventeenth-century medical practice. JOURNAL OF SOCIAL HISTORY

Contributes to our understanding of the mechanisms, inspirations, and effects of an important paradigmatic shift which continues to shape societies across the globe today. JOURNAL OF HEALTH AND HISTORY

Chart[s] a remarkable medical revolution taking place throughout seventeenth-century England. Historians of early modern medicine should thank him for that. JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY OF MEDICINE AND ALLIED SCIENCES

The results of this meticulous and painstaking research are persuasive and have far-reaching implications for the social history of medical care of the dying. SOCIAL HISTORY OF MEDICINE
Mortimer's book is a feat of statistical organisation. He has deftly and meticulously analysed thousands of probate records, using complex and subtle quantities techniques. [...] It is a valuable contribution to the history of medicine, and succeeds in its aim to draw attention to the hitherto acknowledged rise in the employment of doctors at times of grave illness. LOCAL POPULATION STUDIES
A work of great clarity and elegance, and provides the bedrock on which social history must be based. TIMES HIGHER EDUCATION SUPPLEMENT
A must for any studying the history of science or subjects related to the Renaissance and Industrial Revolutions. MIDWEST BOOK REVIEW

Author Bio

Hon. Research Fellow, University of Exeter

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