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Department of History and Philosophy of Science


Lauren Kassell

This article was last updated in 1999. Please note that it does not reflect the latest contributions to the field nor digital tools or materials.

See other subjects in the guide to research, especially the sections on Rarities, collections and the history of science and History of modern medicine.

Secondary materials

The list of monographs which follows is not comprehensive. It focuses on recent studies which themselves direct the reader to the full range of materials on a subject. It also includes a number of books which are on subjects tangentially related to the history of medicine (hunger, sexuality, witchcraft), and it does not include books on demography (famine, ageing, death). This is followed by a list of collections of essays on the history of medicine and a list of the journals devoted to the history of medicine.

General studies

  • Lawrence Brockliss and Colin Jones, The Medical World of Early Modern France (Oxford, 1997). WL X1686
  • Roy Porter, The Greatest Benefit to Mankind: A Medical History of Humanity from Antiquity to the Present (London, 1997). WL X1711
  • Nancy Siraisi, Medieval and Early Renaissance Medicine (Chicago, 1990). X988


  • Lucinda McCray Beier, Sufferers and Healers: The Experience of Illness in Seventeenth-Century England (London, 1987). X826
  • Robin Briggs, Witches and Neighbours: The Social and Cultural Context of European Witchcraft (London, 1996).
  • Sandra Cavallo, Charity and Power in Early Modern Italy: Benefactors and Their Motives in Turin, 1541-1789 (Cambridge, 1995). WL D119
  • Piero Camporesi, Bread of Dreams: Food and Fantasy in Early Modern Europe (Cambridge, 1989). WL D91
  • Stuart Clark, Thinking with Demons: The Idea of Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe (Oxford, 1997).
  • Brian Copenhaver, Symphorien Champier and the Reception of the Occultist Tradition in Renaissance France (The Hague, 1978). WL B208
  • Harold J. Cook, The Decline of the Old Medical Regime in Stuart London (Ithaca, 1986). WL X844
  • Harold J. Cook, Trials of an Ordinary Doctor: Joannes Groenevelt in Seventeenth-Century London (Baltimore, 1994). WL X1401
  • Patricia Crawford, 'Attitudes to Menstruation in Seventeenth-Century England', Past and Present, 91 (1981), 47-73.
  • Lorraine Daston and Katharine Parke, Wonders and the Order of Nature, 1150-1750 (New York, 1998). WL A186
  • Allen Debus, The English Paracelsians (London, 1965). WL R25
  • Allen Debus, The French Paracelsians (Cambridge, 1991). WL X1104
    (Also, many articles and essays on Paracelsianism, hermeticism and medicine by Debus.)
  • Lorrinda Dixon, Perilous Chastity: Women and Illness in Pre-Enlightenment Art and Medicine (Ithaca, 1995). WL A186
  • Barbara Duden, The Woman Beneath the Skin: A Doctor's Patients in Eighteenth-Century Germany, trans. Thomas Dunlap (Cambridge, Mass., 1991). WL X1192
  • William Eamon, Science and the Secrets of Nature: Books of Secrets in Medieval and Early Modern Culture (Princeton, 1994). WL B378
  • Mary Fissell, Patients, Power and the Poor in Eighteenth-Century Bristol (Cambridge, 1991). WL X1115
  • David Gentilcore, Healers and Healing in Early Modern Italy (Manchester, 1998). WL X1850
  • Barbara Kaplan, 'Divulging Useful Truths in Physick': The Medical Agenda of Robert Boyle (Baltimore, 1993). WL X1354
  • Michael MacDonald, Mystical Bedlam: Madness, Anxiety, and Healing in Seventeenth-Century England (Cambridge, 1981). WL X450
  • Michael MacDonald, Witchcraft and Hysteria in Elizabethan London: Edward Jorden and the Mary Glover Case (London, 1991). WL Z1052
  • Ian Maclean, The Renaissance Notion of Woman: A Study in the Fortunes of Scholasticism and Medical Science in European Intellectual Life (Cambridge, 1980). WL B287
  • Hilary Marland, The Art of Midwifery: Early Modern Midwives in Europe (London, 1993). WL X1307
  • Vivian Nutton, John Caius and the Manuscripts of Galen (Cambridge, 1987). WL X807
  • Walter Pagel, Paracelsus: An Introduction to Philosophical Medicine in the Age of the Renaissance (Basle, 1958). WL X15
  • Walter Pagel, Joan Baptista Van Helmont: Reformer of Science and Medicine (Cambridge, 1982). WL X540
  • Katharine Parke, Doctors and Medicine in Early Renaissance Florence (Princeton, 1985). WL X679
  • Margaret Pelling, The Common Lot: Sickness, Medical Occupations and the Urban Poor in Early Modern England (London, 1998). WL X1843
  • Dorothy Porter and Roy Porter, In Sickness and in Health: The British Experience, 1650-1850 (London, 1988). WL X878
  • Lyndal Roper, Oedipus and the Devil: Witchcraft and Sexuality in Early Modern Europe (London, 1994).
  • Jonathan Sawday, The Body Emblazoned: Dissection and the Human Body in Renaissance Culture (London, 1995). WL W667
  • Ronald Sawyer, 'Patients, Healers and Disease in the Southeast Midlands, 1597-1634' (University of Wisconsin Ph.D. thesis 1986).
  • Winfried Schleiner, Medical Ethics in the Renaissance (Washington, D.C., 1995). WL N77
  • Nancy Siraisi, Avicenna in Renaissance Italy: The Canon and Medical Teaching in Italian Universities after 1500 (Princeton, 1987). WL X854
  • Nancy Siraisi, The Clock and the Mirror: Girolamo Cardano and Renaissance Medicine (Princeton, 1997). WL X1697
  • Paul Slack, The Impact of Plague in Tudor and Stuart England (Oxford, 1985). WL X685
  • Keith Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic (Harmondsworth, 1971). WL E249
  • John Young, Faith, Medical Alchemy and Natural Philosophy: Johann Moriaen, Reformed Intelligencer, and the Hartlib Circle (Aldershot, 1998).
  • Andrew Wear, Health and Healing in Early Modern England (Aldershot, 1998). WL X1764
  • Charles Webster, The Great Instauration: Science, Medicine and Reform 1626-1660 (London, 1975).
  • Adrian Wilson, Making of Man-midwifery: Childbirth in England, 1660-1770 (London, 1994). WL X1488 RES

Collections of essays

  • W.F. Bynum and Roy Porter (eds.), Medicine and the Five Senses (Cambridge, 1993). WL X1246
  • W.F. Bynum and Roy Porter (eds.), Living and Dying in London (London, 1991). WL X1138
  • Andrew Cunningham and Ole Grell, Health Care and Poor Relief in Protestant Europe, 1500-1700 (London, 1997). WL X1677
  • Andrew Cunningham and Ole Grell, Health Care and Poor Relief in Counter-Reformation Europe (London, 1999). WL X1837
  • Andrew Cunningham and Ole Grell, Religio Medici: Medicine and Religion in Seventeenth Century England (Aldershot, 1996). WL X1641
  • Andrew Cunningham and Ole Grell, Medicine and the Reformation (London, 1993). WL X1306
  • Marijke Gijscijt-Hofstra, Hilary Marland, and Hans de Waardt (eds.), Illness and Healing Alternatives in Western Europe (London, 1997). WL X1810
  • Hilary Marland and Margaret Pelling (eds.), The Task of Healing: Medicine, Religion and Gender in England and the Netherlands, 1450-1800 (Rotterdam, 1996). WL X1609
  • Vivian Nutton (ed.), Medicine at the Courts of Europe, 1500-1837 (London, 1990). WL X977
  • Vivian Nutton and Roy Porter (eds.), The History of Medical Education in Britain (Amsterdam, 1995). WL X1493
  • Margaret Pelling and Charles Webster (eds.), Essays on the Life and Work of Thomas Linacre c.1460-1524 (Oxford, 1977). WL X256
  • Roy Porter (ed.), The Popularisation of Medicine, 1650-1850 (London, 1992). WL X1204
  • Roy Porter (ed.), Patients and Practitioners: Lay Perceptions of Medicine in Pre-Industrial Society (Cambridge, 1985). [And many more volumes.] WL X690
  • Andrew Wear, Roger French and I.M. Lonie (eds.), The Medical Renaissance of the Sixteenth Century (Cambridge, 1985). WL X672
  • Andrew Wear and Roger French (eds.), The Medical Revolution of the Seventeenth Century (Cambridge, 1989). WL X916
  • Charles Webster (ed.), Health, Medicine and Mortality in the Sixteenth Century (Cambridge, 1979). WL X370


The standard history of medicine journals follow. Articles on the history of early modern medicine can also be found throughout the history of science journals (see the Isis Bibliography) and in historical journals.

  • Early Science and Medicine
  • Social History of Medicine
  • Journal for the History of Medicine
  • Bulletin of the History of Medicine


See the reference section in the Whipple (REF Med).

  • Current Work in the History of Medicine, produced by Wellcome Institute from 1954.
  • Bibliography of the History of Medicine, produced by the National Library of Medicine, Bethesda, 18 vols. (1980).
  • Isis Current Bibliography

Encyclopedias and surveys etc.

  • W.F. Bynum and Roy Porter (eds.), Companion Encyclopedia to the History of Medicine, 2 vols. (1993).
  • Lawrence Conrad et. al., The Western Medical Tradition 800 BC to AD 1800 (Cambridge, 1995).
  • Pietro Corsi and Paul Weindling (eds.), Information Sources in the History of Science and Medicine (1983).
  • J.R. Partington, A History of Chemistry (London, 1961). Vol. 2 has lots of material on alchemy and medicine in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
  • Lynn Thorndike, History of Magic and Experimental Science, 6 vols. (NY, 1923-41).

Primary materials

Research is often described as following Ariadnes' thread. Once you get a hold on a subject, you track it through the archives. But at the same time, it is difficult to choose a subject before you know what the sources are. This is the purpose of footnotes and bibliographies in secondary works. Once you have chosen an area of research which interests you – whether it's vague (something about women), or well-defined (Paracelsus and the moon) – you should compile a bibliography of secondary works. This is the opposite of hunting for manuscripts: think laterally about any subject which might have bearing on yours. These books will contain the directions you need to many of the relevant primary works, and the bibliographies and catalogues which will help you to locate these texts are listed below. In addition, some of these bibliographies and catalogues contain indexes which might direct you to relevant materials. Electronic catalogues can be similarly searched.

Catalogues of printed works

For British printed books see:

  • A.W. Pollard and G.R. Redgrave, A Short-Title Catalogue of Books Printed Books Printed in England, Scotland, and Ireland, 2nd ed. (London, 1986).
  • Donald Wing, Short-title Catalogue of Books Printed in England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales etc. 1641-1700 (revised 1994).
  • Christopher Whitby, 'British Books Related to Medicine 1475-1640: a handlist' (a typescript). See me (Lauren Kassell) for information about how to consult this list.

To locate books listed in the above, as well as books printed elsewhere, it is best to look at the catalogues of major collections. These, organised according to location, are as follows.


  • H.M. Adams, Catalogue of Books Printed on the Continent of Europe, 1501-1600 in Cambridge Libraries (London, 1967). The major medical holdings in Cambridge are at the UL, and at St John's College. The latter holds aprox. 700 volumes – this collection is being studied by Peter Jones, Fellow Librarian, King's College. See the Whipple catalogue for their early medical books.


  • H.J. Symons and H.R. Denham, A Catalogue of Printed Books in the Wellcome Historical Medical Library (London, 1962).
  • British Library: The early printed collections can be searched here under the category 'Older reference material (to 1975 only)'.


  • Bodleian Library, Printed Books Pre-1920, CD-ROM – this can be accessed at the UL.


The National Library of Medicine in Bethesda, Maryland has a fabulous collection, and the catalogues of it are extremely useful. These are:

  • R.J. Durling, A Catalogue of Sixteenth Century Printed Books in the National Library of Medicine (Bethesda, MD 1967).
  • Peter Krivatsy, A Catalogue of Seventeenth Century Printed Books in the National Library of Medicine (Bethesday, MD 1989).

Catalogues of manuscripts and other records

Once you have a subject, the best way to locate manuscripts at the early stages of research is to go to the UL and to look through the shelves of catalogues of manuscripts in the major libraries throughout the world – in this country see especially the catalogues of the Wellcome Library, British Library, and the Bodleian Library, Oxford, and the Cambridge University Library. Many colleges and institutions have important medical collections. Beware that some collections are better catalogued than others, and some do not have printed catalogues.

The manuscripts of central figures in the history of science can sometimes found to have been edited. Similarly, there are a number of editions, many dating from the nineteenth century, of early modern diaries and letters which might have some bearing on the history of medicine.

Major studies according to subject

1. Long-term studies of major themes

  • Clark 1997
  • Daston and Parke 1998
  • Eamon 1994
  • Thomas 1971
  • Webster 1975

2. Biography

  • Copenhaver 1978
  • Kaplan 1993
  • Pagel 1958
  • Pagel 1982
  • Young 1998
  • Cook 1996
  • Siraisi 1997

3. Specific genres/records

  • Books of secrets: Eamon 1994
  • English vernacular medical texts: Fissell (book in progress; see essay in Porter (ed.), 1992); Slack in Webster (ed.), 1979.
  • Latin medical texts: Schleiner 1995, Maclean 1980
  • Court records: Briggs 1996, Gentilcore 1998, Roper 1994
  • Paintings: Dixon 1995, Sawday 1995
  • (see also List 5 below)

4. Institutions/medical practitioners

  • Brockliss and Jones 1997
  • Cavallo 1995
  • Cook 1986
  • Fissell 1991
  • Gentilcore 1998
  • Parke 1985
  • Pelling 1998
  • Webster 1975
  • Wilson 1994

5. Casebooks

  • Beier 1987
  • Duden 1991
  • MacDonald 1981
  • Sawyer 1986
  • Thomas 1971 (pp. 362-82)

6. Experience of healing (patients)

  • Beier 1987
  • Dixon 1995
  • Duden 1991
  • Fissell 1991
  • MacDonald 1981
  • Porter & Porter 1988
  • Sawyer 1986
  • Siraisi 1998 (Cardano was his own favourite patient.)

7. Physiology/philosophy

  • Childbirth: Wilson 1994
  • Gender and sexuality: Roper 1994
  • Hunger: Camporesi 1989
  • Madness: MacDonald 1981
  • Menstruation: Crawford 1981
  • Midwifery: Marland 1993, Wilson 1994
  • Paracelsianism: Debus (1965, 1991), Pagel (1982, 1982), Webster (1975)
  • Plague: Slack 1985
  • Witchcraft: Briggs 1996, Clark 1997, MacDonald 1981, Roper 1994, Thomas 1971
  • Women: Dixon 1995, Maclean 1980. (This subject is present in most histories of medicine, and there are a number of general books on the history of women and the history of gender.)